When the Toronto Maple Leafs stumbled early in the season, it seemed like major changes were just around the corner. And those changes would be needed to fix the problems with this team if they were ever going to win again.
That is not what happened. There were some moves of players in and out of the lineup but scratching Justin Holl and inserting Timothy Liljegren into the mix hardly qualifies as a massive change.
One of the things that has changed for the Maple Leafs since the early slump has been the effectiveness of the power play. It is useful to note that this is not to say that the power play has dramatically shifted in terms of its ability to generate shots and scoring chances. It was still doing that early in the season. But the power play has been scoring actual goals and that can shift perception in a big way.
Remember, as the Maple Leafs ran into power play trouble down the stretch last season, there was some reason to be worried about their play with the man advantage. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, given the personnel that they have available to play in those situations but if the results aren’t there, the questions surely follow.
Power Play Rates/Rankings
Let’s compare the Maple Leafs 5-on-4 play from last season to the first seven games this season, to the 11 games since.
|First 7 GP of 2021-2022||139.8||1st||77.7||4th||8.98||3rd||81.1||2nd||5.18||22nd||6.7||29th|
|Next 11 GP of 2021-2022||120.5||1st||71.3||1st||8.83||3rd||74.5||1st||14.3||1st||20.0||T-3rd|
What does this show?
That the Maple Leafs power play, for as maligned as it has been, is among the very best at generating shots and scoring chances. That’s the kind of power play you want to be on for future results.
At the same time, last season and early this season, the Maple Leafs power play was not doing a great job converting those chances into actual goals. It can’t just be assumed that the shooting percentage will improve but when a team is rolling out Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly on the first unit, it does not really track for them to struggle putting the puck in the net.
And now they don’t. In the past 11 games, the Maple Leafs have scored nine goals during 5-on-4 play. The only team with more in that time frame is the Edmonton Oilers, with 11. Remember, this is an Oilers team that has an all-time great power play. Since the start of last season, the Oilers are scoring 11.26 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-4 play. The second-place Carolina Hurricanes are at 9.56 goals per 60. The Maple Leafs are eighth, at 7.67 goals per 60.
Not Just The Stars
What we have seen then is that the Maple Leafs are getting even better at generating chances on the power play, going from very good last season and early this season to an elite level recently.
Part of the overall success stems from the fact that Toronto’s second power play unit has been highly effective. We are still dealing in small samples here, but the Maple Leafs power play has generated its highest rate of shots and scoring chances when Jason Spezza and, wait for it, Nick Ritchie have been on the ice.
The takeaway from this is that the Maple Leafs have had a top tier power play for some time but until the pucks start crossing that skinny red line there is going to be angst about a power play not clicking. Right now, the Maple Leafs power play is clicking, and it has been a big part of the team winning 10 of its past 11 games.
Not a member? Subscribe to TorontoHockeyNow today and get $10 dollars off our subscription fee for access to all four Canadian sites. Use promo code “Maple Leafs” to get $10 off!
Stats via Natural Stat Trick.