Connect with us

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Numbers Game

After the Maple Leafs forfeited their third period lead last night against the Senators and went 0 for 7 on the power play, I decided to look at these and other team statistics to determine how important they actually are in the grand scheme of things. And for a Leafs’ team that has been shutout of the post-season for the last two years, the ‘grand scheme of things’ is a playoff birth.

For starters, the Maple Leafs inability to maintain their lead is nothing new. Last year, teams that had a lead going into the third period won, on average, 83.2% of the time. The Leafs finished tied for 20th in the league in that department, winning 80% of the time. More importantly, only three teams that had a winning percentage of 80% or less when leading after two periods qualified for the playoffs (Senators – 80%, Rangers 77.1%, and Thrashers – 72.7%) and only three teams that had above average winning percentages did not qualify (Flyers – 92.3%, Oilers – 91.7%, Canadiens – 86.7%).

It is commonly assumed that teams that are better at scoring goals on the power play and at preventing goals on the penalty kill are more likely to make the playoffs. However, luckily for the Maple Leafs, power play efficiency (PP%) was not strongly correlated with playoff births. The average PP% last year was 17.57. Five teams, including the Leafs, had PP%’s greater than the average. However, only one out of the eight bottom ranked teams, all with PP%’s of less than 17, made the playoffs (Thrashers – 16.5%).

The effect of penalty killing efficiency (PK%) was even less pronounced than PP% last year. With a league average of 82.46%, ten playoff teams finished above the average while six finished below.

Not surprisingly, as demonstrated to be a trend in the NHL in a study conducted by Illegal Curve’s Richard Pollock, teams that finished in the top 10 in both PP% and PK%, made the playoffs.

One of the best indicators of a playoff birth last year was the ratio of even-strength goals for/against (ESF/A). Ten out of the thirteen teams that had ratios less than the league average of 1.02 did not qualify for the playoffs and they were all ranked in the bottom ten in that department. Moreover, the Leafs, ranked 9th, were the only team that did not make the playoffs in the top 10. As well, six out the top 10 ranked teams in ESF/A also ranked in the top 10 in the league in overall points.

That’s enough statistical analyses for now, but stayed tuned for further studies in the near future.

For Illegal Curve, I am Adam Gutkin.