His older brother’s got the $31m contract and the name recognition, but this was Nick Robertson’s night.
One of the reasons I came back to hockey media is because I truly believe that hockey fans deserve a lot better coverage than they tend to get. There are exceptions, but I find that especially in Toronto, small stories can spiral out of control into a ridiculous melodrama for innocuous reasons: a tweet, a misattributed quote, an opinion masquerading as an “inside” scoop.
There was a whole media cycle based on some supposed internal drama that can’t POSSIBLY exist. Take it from me, that if there’s an actual rift between the players or the coaches, or management and coaches, or players and management, or management and other management, you probably aren’t going to hear much about it. The current iteration of the Leafs front office is made up of professional people who take their jobs seriously, and I have no reason to believe that Leafs players don’t notice that, especially those that played elsewhere (or played in Toronto under a previous regime).
I think fans deserve better. I would like to provide more breakdowns of games and players and plays, and respect the intelligence level of my readers. Aside from the above two paragraphs, I would like everything on this website to adhere to the rule that there is a relatively small, yet dedicated group of Leafs (and Canucks) fans that simply want to learn more about the game and team they watch. I track games to provide readers with a level of analysis they can’t get anywhere else, because simply watching a game and discussing what you see is apparently no longer done in sports media.
Most of what I learned about hockey analysis didn’t come from fancy conferences or research papers written in mathematical language by people with PHDs. They came from simple blogs like this one, where people would send ideas back and forth to each other. I want to continue my research and leave something lasting in this sport that I’ve watched and loved my whole life. Demand better. Stay out of the muck. Try and be critical about tweets that make an entire franchise look derailed and disorganized. Focus on the game. That’s why we watch. It’s a great sport if you just watch.
Onto the stats. I have a few new columns since we last spoke, and shuffled things around.
5v5 Shots and scoring chances
Dallas held a wide advantage in territorial play here. I had the shot attempts 54-43, and the actual attempts taken 46-36. However, the Stars also had a lot of perimeter shots juicing the total, as seen by the fact that scoring chances were pretty even throughout the night. That’s not always a bad thing, as oftentimes a bad shot can set up a good shot (see: Luke Glendening’s goal, which was a rebound of a weak attempt by Nils Lundkvist).
The Stars also missed a lot of net a bunch, with 10 missed shots (TML missed the net just twice). This didn’t happen on a lot of scoring chances however, and when the Stars did manage to get inside, Samsonov generally was forced to make a save.
Overall, the scoring chances on net at the end were 11-11. Both teams scored once at 5v5. The Leafs held a wide penalty differential advantage and out-chanced the Stars 7-4 at 5v4. It would have been fine except for that sequence where they failed to get the shot off, unpressured, 3 times within a span of 69 seconds (no, I didn’t make that number up) on that late powerplay.
One positive thing about the way the Leafs season has gone so far is that we haven’t really had to adjust for score effects at all.
New feature! How did each team generate their shots and chances?
We’re going to find that most shots come in a section of game I call “Cycle+”.
“Rush” and “transition” shots are within 6 seconds of a controlled entry (chosen to replicate Mike D’Antoni’s “six seconds or less” offence), with a “rush” being a play where the attacking team came the whole length of the ice, while “transition” implies that they won a battle in the NZ to create the controlled entry.
“Forecheck” shots are the same, but they come within 6 seconds of a dump-in or 3 seconds of an opposition turnover. They’re meant to imply a bit more of a quick-strike element. “Faceoff” shots are within 10 seconds of a won or lost faceoff. You also won’t often see these shots show up in the scoring chance column. “Cycle+” is anything past 6 seconds of a entry, 3 seconds of a turnover, or 10 seconds of a faceoff. If some stray shot falls into the “miscellaneous” column, I’ll find out what I did wrong and correct the error.
Anyway, we can see here that the Leafs chances mainly came from the cycle, while the Stars were a bit quicker, with 10 of their chances coming off the rush or in transition. We’ll likely see that throughout the year: the Leafs don’t really get enough credit for how good they are at forechecking and keeping the pressure on opponents.
Here are some individual numbers:
- This Nick Robertson kid was flying out there, eh? His first career two-goal game, including an overtime winner, and got to show up his older brother. Really cool for him, but he was good all night, and was the Leafs most dangerous forward in the OZ. He didn’t distribute, but he definitely gives that line a different element than they had with Malgin, especially with Tavares ability to win pucks back.
- That said, it’s worth noting that the assists on Robertson’s goals tonight weren’t Tavares and Nylander, but Bunting and Matthews.
- This wasn’t the breakout night for Matthews. Maybe next game. Something just looks a little off with him, and he doesn’t seem to command the same presence on the ice as he did last season, but that may just be me. He’s getting chances, the goals will come.
- This used to be a one-line team. Under DeBoer, they seem to be a little bit more dangerous. I liked how Seguin and Dellandrea worked in the OZ together. Marchment is a bit of a wild card, since he seemed to be very good at recovering loose pucks but doesn’t really have much ability to create shots on his own. Wyatt Johnston looks like a player
- This wasn’t Heiskanen’s best night. Aside from the penalties he took, he didn’t really create anything in the OZ. He took 4 long shots but didn’t set anything up.
Just a wild difference in styles here: the Leafs entered with control just 16 times in 62 attempts, but generated 15 scoring chances off controlled entries. The Stars entered with control 32 times on 60 attempts, but generated 17 scoring chances, nearly half as many chances per entry.
While the Stars did get some chances off rushes, they also had a lot of what I call “one and done” possessions, where you enter the zone and give it up quickly. They also, of course, took a lot of bad shots, so while their controlled entry stats did get them quite a bit of zone time, they weren’t able to do much with it.
Ironically, the Stars played the kind of style the Leafs frequently get criticized for employing. The Leafs looked pretty slow, and we’ll see why when we look at the zone exits section.
Oh wait, this may also provide a hint for why the Stars dominated territorially. I had them recovering 72% of their shoot-ins (which seems high) compared to just 47% for Toronto.
Marchment was key for Dallas here. I recorded him forcing 2 turnovers and winning 3 retrieval races. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, he wasn’t really able to turn it into anything meaningful.
As for the Leafs, they probably relied too much on the “knife” entry play, where a forward tips in a stretch pass from a teammate. That’s never a good play, since you only have two players at most chasing the puck into the zone at full speed rather than three. This is likely why the Recovery% from their dump-ins by forwards is so low.
- The new column on the side indicates the number of chances the team generated after that player’s entries.
- In a game when the team had a poor night entering the zone, we wouldn’t expect many good individual performances. Which is exactly what we have here.
- Tavares’ strong 3-for-6 game is offset by also committing 2 failed entries. That said, the Leafs were super efficient on his entries, creating 5 scoring chances off those entries.
- Some of the D had decent nights, particularly Rielly (who was also first on the forecheck at least twice), Sandin and Holl.
- With Dallas, we see why I added the “chance” column. Roope Hintz went 4-for-4 on entries, a strong night, but it only led to one chance for the Stars. Dellandrea had a great night as well, but only lead to 2 entries.
- Heiskanen had a much stronger night entering the zone than he did once in the zone, but it didn’t lead to much.
- Pretty bad night for the second pairing in the absence of Muzzin, as both Holl and Sandin allowed quite a few controlled entries, though they each had their share of forced failed entries.
- Oh no, Miro.
- The Leafs had a lot of success on the Stars left side, generating at least 1 scoring chance per controlled entry against all of Heiskanen, Suter, and Lindell. They got almost nothing on the right side.
- I’m not a huge Hakanpaa guy because I feel like his inability to move the puck is so restrictive that it cancels out his strong defensive game, but you can see the effects of his strong defensive game here.
Exits and DZ touches
This was the worst game for defensive zone exits this season and the team was held to exiting with control just 45% of the time, which explains a little of why the game looked so sluggish at times, especially since Dallas had similar difficulties moving the puck. No stretch passes were getting through.
In those situations, I’d rather my defencemen adjust by carrying the puck out rather than try to pass it, and dump the puck in with a bit more speed. Another option is to bring the forwards well back in support and stretch the defensive shape of the opposition a little.
If there was an issue turning pucks over and letting Dallas maintain control in the offensive zone, it wasn’t due to the defence, who had just 4 turnovers on 77 touches, per my count.
We’ll see if any players were able to do anything of note:
- Well, on Toronto’s side, no. Pretty much everybody had multiple dump-outs. Sandin and Giordano were chucking pucks into the neutral zone seemingly at random.
- While the D were able to limit the turnovers, the first line had trouble here, particularly Marner. In fairness to Matthews, one of his turnovers came as a result of a missed high sticking call against him.
- I haven’t really had a chance to bring it up here, but Aston-Reese had a bad night in the DZ, and Aube-Kubel has had some weak games as well. I’m a little curious as to why this line has stuck together this long. It’s not clear to me what they do. I think a lot of Kampf’s success last season was thanks to playing as the defensive conscience of Engvall and Mikheyev, two players who can flat out fly with the puck, but neither Aston-Reese nor Aube-Kubel have done much to impress me yet.
- Heiskanen didn’t have a single controlled exit and turned the puck over 4 times on 15 DZ touches. Not his best night at all, even if you ignore the penalties.
- The Stars, like the Leafs, had nobody really buzzing or breaking out with speed. They had similar issues, with the Leafs taking away passing lanes for guys like Lundkvist and Heiskanen, and turning would-be stretch passes into turnovers.
Thank you for reading. I hope you found something informative in here. I’m not a huge fan of website comments, so if you have suggestions, notes on what you liked or didn’t like, kindly get at me on Twitter @camcharronyvr, or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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