At this point you’re aware the Leafs have lost five first round series in a row. You’re aware that four of those – the last four, consecutively – came in the final game of the series. That is not a stat you needed me to “dig up” for you, nor did you need me to remind you of it at all right now. For that, I am sorry.
The good news is, I have far more interesting statistical nuggets than that thanks to the great work of Sportsnet’s own Mark Askin, who should really be called Mark Ask ‘em because if you’ve got questions, the man has answers. With the Leafs’ 2021-22 season starting Wednesday night, I thought it’d be good to remind you about a few of the players and trends that bring us to this most dramatic “Last Dance” style season.
Hopefully you learn something you didn’t know. And if you knew all this, might I suggest an additional hobby?
Auston Matthews is one of just 13 players to score 20-plus goals in every NHL season since 2016-17 (he’s actually scored 34-plus, but we’re lowering the bar to include other stars). Close your eyes and try to guess the other dozen, see how you do.
The other dozen:
Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg
Aleksander Barkov, Florida
Connor McDavid, Edmonton
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton
Brad Marchand, Boston
Sebastian Aho, Carolina
Alex Ovechkin, Washington
Patrice Bergeron, Boston
David Pastrnak, Boston
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg
Mark Stone, Vegas
Evander Kane, San Jose
Speaking of 20 goal scorers, Tavares missed being in the above group by a single goal last year (19 in a shortened season), which is unfortunate, because check out his run. Below are the active players with the longest streaks of consecutive 20-goal seasons:
|Alex Ovechkin||2005-06 to 2020-21||16|
|Patrick Kane||2007-08 to 2019-20||13 (scored 15 in 2020-21)|
|Jonathan Toews||2007-08 to 2018-19||12|
|John Tavares||2009-10 to 2019-20||11 (scored 19 in 2020-21)|
|Phil Kessel||2008-09 to 2018-19||11|
Speaking of Matthews, though, here’s a look at the longest goal droughts of his career by season. It’s a good reminder that guys who score a ton still don’t score every night. As a rookie he once went 13 games without scoring. Since then:
|YEAR||GOALLESS DROUGHT||SEASON GOAL TOTAL|
He’s never gone longer than six games en route to those gaudy totals. Next time Matthews goes four or five games without a goal, might I suggest getting to your betting site of preference and smashing the “Auston Matthews goal” lines?
By contrast, a look at Matthews' longest goal scoring streaks over his career:
|2020-21||Jan. 24 to Feb. 8||7|
|2018-19||Oct. 3 to Oct. 13||6|
He’s the only Leafs player to ever start his career with the team and score 30-plus goals in his first five seasons. He’s also the first US-born player to score 34-plus over the first five seasons of their career. Anyway, I’m not sold seven is where his “longest career goal scoring streak” rests when he finally hangs up his skates.
So the Leafs score goals, we know that, but if you’ll recall their power play has had its struggles at times. The below stat makes some sense with that in mind.
Here are the number of 5-on-5 even strength goals the Leafs have scored and where they ranked in the NHL in the past three seasons:
|YEAR||EVEN STRENGTH GOALS||LEAGUE RANK|
And so, here are the most even strength goals scored since the start of the 2018-19 season:
|TEAM||EVEN STRENGTH GOALS|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||499|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||478|
Last season was the only one among Toronto's past five where they cracked the top 10 in overall goals against though, finishing seventh after a couple seasons in the league’s bottom tier.
One of the themes of Amazon’s “All or Nothing” series was the team’s mental state. Their “killer instinct,” their ability to close, that old “tough to quantify” chestnut. It is somewhat visually reflected in Toronto's goal output by period, though. As the games have gotten tight and the pressure has ramped up, they’ve increasingly found themselves less effective.
Here is the Leafs' goal differential by period in the 2020-21 season:
|PERIOD||GOALS FOR||GOALS AGAINST||DIFF|
As of today, Auston Matthews is not a regular at Leafs practice, and will not be joining them for the first few games of the season. So who should take his spot on the flank on PP1?
Jason Spezza has 970 career points, which places him 99th on the NHL's all-time scoring list, four ahead of Maurice Richard and just two back of Shane Doan. Spezza will start the season in Matthews' spot on the power play (assuming that the way they’ve been practicing leading up to Game 1 doesn’t change).
While we’re on special teams -- and players who are starting the year out of the lineup a la Matthews -- Ilya Mikheyev created waves shorthanded last season, which will be something to keep an eye on when he returns in roughly eight weeks.
Here is a list of players who generated the most shots on goal while shorthanded in the 2020-21 season:
|Cam Atkinson||Columbus (now with Philadelphia)||19|
Mikheyev was second in shorthanded shot attempts and scoring chances league-wide as well. You just gotta think a few more will fall in for him whenever he gets back.
Last thing on special teams: the Leafs weren’t so special there last season, and have slowly gotten worse in that regard over the past five years. Adding together their ranks on the PP and PK over the past five years, you can see it’s an area that’s gone from an overall asset to an issue.
|YEAR||PP RANK||PK RANK||COMBINED|
And fittingly for the end of an article, let’s take it to the end of the game, to the shootout. How many games do you think the Leafs won in a shootout last season? During the 2017-18 season (which was a full calendar, of course), they won seven such contests. So last year, how many … three, maybe four? How about the season before? How about the past three seasons combined?
Here’s the Leafs' total games won in a shootout since 2017-18:
They’ve won two shootout games over three seasons. I don’t care if the last two were shortened, not a chance that trend continues.
At long last, the stats will start to count again on Wednesday night, the streaks, the droughts and all the rest sit at zero. We’d love to hear which trends you think will continue, and which will end over what should be an exciting season ahead.