There seems to be a contingent of Maple Leafs fans that get its hackles up whenever the fact is raised that Toronto gets outshot in almost every single game it plays.
This is understandable, given the Leafs are 11-6-0 and tied for second in the Eastern Conference. Hockey games are won by scoring the most goals, not by getting the most shots.
But shot totals are often a reflection of how much a team has the puck. After all, you can’t shoot the puck unless you possess it first.
Also, puck possession is something that Leafs coach Randy Carlyle has said he wants more of. So if it’s important to the coach, it’s probably worth mentioning.
Specifically, Carlyle would love his team to have the kind of possession it enjoyed during the second period of Saturday’s game in Boston when the Leafs outshot the Bruins, 18-10, and outscored them, 1-0.
“I think every coach would like their team to play that way,” Carlyle said, per the Globe and Mail. “That’s more the type of hockey that we’re going to ask the hockey club to play. A little bit more of a cycle game, a little bit more of a puck-possession game, you know, instead of the up and down, trading chances.”
Writes the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle:
The analysis of the Leafs’ shots-on-goal problems has been beaten to death over the past 10 months, but the real issue in the long term is one of zone time, not simply putting meaningless rubber on goal.
By any measure, Toronto spends a disproportionate amount of time in its own end, with new statistics estimating their offensive versus defensive zone time at 41.4 per cent, the second-worst rating in the league.
At the end of the day, there’s no right way to win hockey games. The Leafs have overcome their lack of puck possession with great goaltending, good special teams, and a high shooting percentage. For the team’s fans, it must be frustrating for critics to keep saying the collapse is coming. But it’s not personal; it’s mostly just an interesting narrative, particularly for those who are interested in hockey’s so-called advanced statistics.
By the way, Toronto is in Minnesota on Wednesday to play a Wild team whose possession stats have improved dramatically this season.
The Leafs have lost two of their last three, including Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to the B’s.