Saturday, November 27, 2010

Leafs favourite number must be zero

For the fifth time this season an opposition goalie left the rink with a big smile on his face. In three of those five games the Leafs actually outshot their opponents yet could buy a goal. But shots on net is not a very good indicator on how well a team has played. Most people agree that the number of scoring changes is a much more reliable indicator. That's because shots from 40 or 50 feet out are not considered scoring chances because the rarely find the back of the net.

The Maple Leafs take a lot of shots from 50 feet out or from along the boards. NHL goalies typically stop shots from that distance as long as they can see them. That's why Vesa Toskala is no longer playing in the NHL - he didn't stop these shots on a frequent enough basis. Leaf fans often are under the impression that the Leafs have outplayed their opponents but either run into a hot goalie or have bad luck. The reality is that the Leafs typically have far fewer scoring chances in a game than the opposition. It's like having 9 Jason Blakes on your team. Lots of nice skating but you never get close enough to the opposition goalie to ever be on a first name basis with him.

The same problem exists on the powerplay because you will rarely see a Leaf player in the heavy traffice region in front of the opposition net. Most shots are taken from the point or the perimeter which explains why so many shots are blocked.

This problem will not be resolved until the Leafs develop some big-bodied, skilled forwards. Luca Caputi has the size but he has yet to show that he can be a NHL regular. Christian Hanson has the size too but does not appear to have the skating ability or the hands to be a offensive player in the NHL. Viktor Stulberg and Alexei Ponikarovsky had the size but both were shipped out.

So until the Leaf top 9 forwards grow taller and become more truculent, the offensive will likely struggle.

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