Toronto Maple Leafs 2 at New Jersey Devils 1 – 2022-11-23 recap

We’re a few days behind, let’s get right into it.

“Deserve” to win is always a strange concept. There are always a good number of bounces in a game, that will go one way or the other. A clearing attempt can hit a shin pad and result in a clear 2-on-1, which results in a scoring chance, which results in a goal.

On paper, the value of the expected goal of that 2-on-1 are recorded and treated as earned, when really, the shin pad did most of the work in setting up the actual play. Bounces can happen anywhere on the ice, and can have any number of effects. Luck around the net is one thing, luck in the neutral zone is another thing altogether.

One reason I count zone entries is because I feel it’s a better indicator of zone time than corsi can be, or even actual zone possession. Doing the things to put your team in position to take advantage of bounces is mostly what players in this sport are trying to do. Witness the Devils fantastic offence, taking a lot of outside shots, hunting for deflections and rebounds. It wound up with the Devils, by my count, generating 50 shot attempts to Toronto’s 27, but the scoring chance count was just 17-13 as the Leafs did a pretty good job boxing out and preventing those shot attempts from becoming anything. The zone entry attempts were much closer to even, the difference in the game really being that the Leafs don’t look for outside efforts. They aren’t an offensive team that will live and die by tips and rebounds, they try to set up good, open shots. I don’t know if that extreme is preferable, given how bad the Leafs look offensively when those shots don’t drop, but the Leafs are a bit better at territorial play than their corsi numbers would indicate. They get into the offensive zone a lot.

We can also, in a way, call the Leafs “lucky” that the correct call was made on all three disallowed goals by the Devils. If you’ve previously had two goals called off for goalie interference earlier in the game, you don’t then get to kick a puck in and call it Dutch. New Jersey’s aggression around the net was probably a bad gameplan: even when it worked, goals were called off due to rules being broken in the buildup.

Meanwhile, a week ago I declared the Leafs no longer an elite team due to how badly they were outplayed by these same Devils, but they were a much stronger group Wednesday night in New Jersey. They didn’t outplay the Devils by any stretch, but considering the stakes, it was a good performance. The Leafs did what they had to do: got a couple of early goals and took away the front of the net, and had enough of a lead late in the third period that it was going to take two to send it to overtime.

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