It has been a long time since the Leafs have had a reliable goaltender for a full season. For a while, this didn't seem like such a big deal as the team in front of the crease was pretty absymal as well, but now, goaltending has clearly become the biggest issue on the team.
Goaltending, it has been said, is 70% of the game, unless you don't have it, in which case it's 100%. This seems to be exactly where the Leafs find themselves; with no goaltender they can rely on on a night-to-night basis.
Just how much of a difference would league average goaltending make for this team? I think it may surprise a lot of you.
As things sit today, the Leafs are 28th in the NHL in team save percentage at .900 while the median team save percentage is .910. This means that for every 100 shots a goaltender faces, Leaf goaltending will allow one additional goal. This may not sound terribly significant, but when you're looking at 2,056 shots against to this point in the season, you're looking at between 20 and 21 goals against.
The current totals of goals allowed for the Leafs thus far is 209 which, again, places them 28th in the NHL. With league average goaltending -- shaving 21 goals from their total -- the Leafs would be tied for 17th with 195 goals against.
From an offensive perspective, the Leafs have scored exactly 200 goals so far this season. With the league average goaltending totals provided above, the Leafs' goal differential would sit at +15. How does this total compare against the goal differentials of other playoff teams?
San Jose (+14)
New Jersey (+12)
A +15 goal differential would make the Leafs better than half of the teams currently occupying playoff positions.
Having gone through all of this, it's also fairly apparent for those who watch the games regularly that the save percentage of Reimer, Gustavsson, and Scrivens can't be pinned solely on our masked men. Our defense does seem prone to allowing higher calibre scoring chances than many other teams and the terrible performance of our PK unit during the first half of the season also had a significant impact on our goaltenders' save percentage.
New coach Randy Carlyle likes his players to collapse a bit more in the defensive zone and doesn't encourage his defense to pinch as much at the offensive blueline which should, in theory, reduce the calibre of chances our goaltenders are facing.
It will be interesting to see if Reimer or Gustavsson see a spike in their save percentage during these final 15 games. In the absence of laying the blame for our save percentage at Ron Wilson's feet, Burke will need to adjust some key personnel in the offseason.
Without a better showing from our goaltenders, the Leafs are going to be hardpressed to make the playoffs next season.
What would league average defensive zone coverage mean?
I would say the biggest issue with our D zone coverage is the forwards. Espicially after tonight when a player like Bozak was taken to task by Semin for almost 30 seconds behind the net. It's a broken record, but we need a legitimate top tier center who can handle the defensive responsibility in our zone. It won't solve everything, but it's a start.
I've defined league average goaltending as average save percentage. From a defensive standpoint, that controls for the number of shots allowed but not necessarily for the quality of those shots. I do think the quality of chances that the Leafs goaltenders face is more difficult than average but I don't think that fully excuses their performance.
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