The New York Rangers have a stretch of three games against pretty easy opponents, and the first of them is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Of course, it’s funny because the Rangers have lost twice to Toronto, but it’s all about when you play your opponent. The Leafs were off to a ridiculously hot start and the Rangers were off to a slow start. Both losses came before the Rangers basically won December.
It was right around that time that the Leafs fired Randy Carlyle and promoted Peter Horachek to interim head coach. The Leafs haven’t scored under Horachek. but they’ve played much better defense. Of course, they’ve been pretty god awful in that stretch. Before the win against Edmonton, the Leafs had lost 11 (!!!) in a row, with one coming in a shootout. Eleven losses in which they scored just 11 goals, getting shutout four times as well. Yeesh.
What have they done lately?
Well, the Leafs have been bad, as mentioned above. But it’s worth noting that they are doing a much better job with the puck and limiting shot attempts, which has overall raised their FF%, a sign of improvement under Horacheck.
That leads us to believe that shoddy goaltending or poor shooting (PDO) has bee a major factor in the recent terrible stretch, and it’s a bit of both actually. Here’s overall PDO, with a massive tank job starting in January.
Here’s the shooting percentage, dropping from 10% to 5% over that span. Wow.
And save percentage, dropping from 94% to a low of under 90%. That’s just awful.
Now for the scary part: When the SH% evens out a bit towards 7%, the Leafs could play spoiler for teams looking to make up points for playoff seeding. The goaltending will also come around. The biggest issue was their possession, which they’ve fixed. The Leafs are a flawed team, for sure, but they have the skill to make a team pay if taken too lightly.
Under Carlyle, the Leafs mostly rotated between an aggressive 1-2-2 forecheck and a passive 1-2-2. However, they mixed in a 2-1-2 forecheck on occasion depending on game situation. In the defensive zone, the Leafs generally played a collapsing box, which will leave the point men open for opportunities. Their powerplay (umbrella) was fairly standard. On the kill, the Leafs rotated between PK strategies depending on opposition setup.
There aren’t many differences with the Leafs under Horachek. He didn’t appear to change the systems much, but it also looks like he actually started enforcing the systems a bit more. Under Carlyle, the Leafs were trading chances and not playing defense. Horachek has them focused on clogging the neutral zone and preventing zone entries. It has worked, but the Leafs, of course, can’t score.
Jake Gardiner-Stephane Robidas
Morgan Reilly-Roman Polak
Korbinian Holzer-Cody Franson
PK: Smith, Winnik, Komarov, Booth, Santorelli, Kadri, Robidas, Polak, Franson, Holzer
James Reimer gets the start.
PK: Stepan, Nash, Girardi, Staal, Moore, Fast, Hunwick, Boyle, Hagelin, Klein, McDonagh, MSL
Cam Talbot is in net.
Be sure to check out our ticket link if you’re looking for tickets to the game. Game time is 7:30pm on MSG.