Is this time different? A confidence check on the Maple Leafs

Last night for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I decided to rewatch Avengers: Infinity War. The opening scene where Loki is stating his case for returning to earth seemed particularly relevant to the Leafs in game seven:

Anyway, here we are. I feel like if you didn’t think we’d end up at Game Seven in this series you were lying to yourself, but the biggest question now is about how confident we feel in the Leafs ability to close it out. It’s been easy to say “this time is different” and to be honest it has been. The Leafs are healthier, their stars are producing more, and suspensions haven’t factored in. The Leafs are more ready for this game than they’ve been for any previous series, but there is another difference and that’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. They are a better team. They are healthier than they’ve been all season, and they’ve won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons.
With all that considered, the question I posed to the TLN crew was: “How confident are you that the Leafs WILL win game seven, and why?” Here are the responses:
Dylan Murphy:
They can and they will. That sentence has been meme’d to death, but this time, it’s right. I’m dreading the game and the pain it will bring should something go wrong with every fibre of my being, and I’m mad that it’s even happening because if not for truly incompetent officiating, the Leafs would’ve won it in 6, but here we are, on …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The regular season Maple Leafs would win a series easily against the regular season Lightning

I’m going to start this Staturday column with the obvious caveat: the numbers below are for the regular season efforts of both our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2-time Cup-winning, three-peat-attempting Tampa Bay Lightning. On the one hand, the Leafs have a history of playing great in the regular season and then pooping the bed in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Lightning have little incentive to push themselves in the regular season, beyond ensuring they make the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at the Lightning and how they compare to the Leafs.
Over the course of the year, Toronto has held a firm lead in the shot attempt differential over Tampa, according to Evolving Hockey (the bottom blue line is T.B while the one above it is TOR):

According to Natural Stat Trick, on the whole, the Leafs get 54.49% of the shot attempts at 5-on-5, when adjusting for score and venue. That’s good for 5th in the league. Conversely, the Lightning sit at 51.5%, and 12th in the league.
If we take the total shot attempts that each of the Leafs and Lightning got this season, smash them together, the Leafs should control about 51.62% of the shot attempts in this series.
The other question is about the pace of the game. The Leafs play at much higher, riskier pace than the Lightning, who are bit more methodical and quiet in their approach. If you add the rate at which each team generates shot attempts for and against together, that’s an estimation of pace. The Leafs are the 6th paciest team, while the Lightning are the 27th. Low pace isn’t bad, it’s just a stylistic difference.
If the Leafs can push the pace on the Lightning, they should have the skill advantage to win that slugfest. If they play down to the Lightning’s pace, they risk suffering from the Lightning’s ability to make something out of nothing.
May the odds be ever in our favour
The NHL Playoff Odds machine on moneypuck.com gives Toronto a really good chance of beating the Lightning:

Of course, this is all on the above-stated caveat that either team’s regular season numbers are a genuine representation of what the actual players on the ice will do come the playoffs.
Final Thoughts
According to Micah Blake McCurdy’s playoff chances model, the Lightning have had over 95% chance to make the playoffs since January. If you’re that team, coming off of two championships and attempting a historic third in a row, it’s going to …

Read More

Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Blue Jays win a pitcher duel (and the series)

The Blue Jays won a pitcher’s duel, 1-0. If I’m being honest, Alek Manoah is about to win the Cy Young award in late April.

Alek Manoah, ace:
In his last outing, I said that Manoah “bullied” the Astros, as he had a line of 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Big Puma didn’t just bully the Boston Red Sox, he beat the living crap out of them with a line of 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.

Alek Manoah, 92mph Sinker and 79mph Slider, Overlay.
Sinker = 16″ of RunSlider = 19″ of Break
Good luck. pic.twitter.com/MJr3jOcXpY
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 28, 2022

Although pitcher wins don’t matter, he now has four wins in all four games that he’s started. Moreover, this win is the 12th straight win when Manoah has pitched.
A more important stat however, is earned run average. Through 25 innings pitched this season, Manoah has an incredibly low ERA of 1.44. He also brings his K/9 up to 9, while his BB/9 sits at 2.52, a significant decline from his 3.22 BB/9 last season.

Alek Manoah’s 4 Consecutive Ks. pic.twitter.com/6Xqya13U4y
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 28, 2022

With Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman fronting the rotation, this team will do damage. Add in Jose Berrios as their #3 and wow, this team is going places.

Alek Manoah, Filthy 86mph Changeup…and K hop.
My dude is light on his feet.
And, a freakin’ Ace. pic.twitter.com/ClhRpaZ63V
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 28, 2022

Blue Jays are now 13-7:
The Jays have also not lost a game back to back dating back to late September last season. In fact, they haven’t lost a series this year. Out of their six series this season, they’ve one five and drawn one. This was also their seventh …

Read More

Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Adventures of the time-travelling Leafs fan

What I’m about to tell you is incredibly difficult to believe, I know that. But I promise you that, even if you don’t believe me, you’ll enjoy the story I’m about to tell.
On Wednesday, I was shopping at the grocery store that now occupies the former Maple Leafs Garden and, when reaching into the back of a freezer for some cheese-y pierogies, my hand knocked the base of the freezer off and… that’s when I saw it: a time travelling portal.
How I knew it was a time travelling portal is unimportant; all that you need to know is that I stepped through its doors and all of a sudden, I was still in a grocery store, but “Payphone” by Maroon 5 was playing on the radio, and that’s how I knew: I had travelled back in time, to the early 2010’s.
I felt a sense of panic come over me. I went to ask the woman next to me, who was wearing an oversized white shirt and blue cutoff jeans, with wedge sneakers, if she knew what year it was, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t ask her anything I wanted to ask. I couldn’t ask who the Prime Minister was, I couldn’t even ask her about the weather. I stood there like a deer in headlights until the question I needed to ask clicked in my head like a switch: “so, how about those Leafs, eh?”
A short conversation flowed, about how the line of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak were dominating once again. She clearly was a big fan, like me. The fact that she was talking about a whole different Leafs roster was hard at f …

Read More

Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Gabriel Moreno tops Baseball America’s list of top Blue Jays prospects

Of course, as I’m doing my top 20 prospects, Baseball America releases their top 30 prospect list. In this article, we’ll be looking at all prospects on their list that didn’t make mine, as well as some interesting prospects in terms of their ranking.

Due to Baseball America being a paid subscription, I won’t reveal where each player ranks. However, I do recommend purchasing BA as it’s a fantastic resource if you love prospects…

Toronto Blue Jays Top 30 Prospects. With Gabriel Moreno at No. 1: https://t.co/3XPjdb69D4
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) March 8, 2022

The prospects that didn’t make my list…
Many of these prospects ranked in my article for both position players and pitchers that missed out. If you wish, you can click the link to see why some of the following prospects didn’t make my list.
Nate Pearson ranks in the top 5. While I don’t consider him a prospect anymore, he still has potential to the moon. They also included Thomas Hatch, a 27-year-old in the teens, and Josh Palacios, a 26-year-old at the back end of the list.
The first player (note due to age) that doesn’t rank on my list is Estiven Machado. The 19-year-old only had one plate appearance in 2021 due to injury, but he certainly is an enticing prospect as he’s great with the glove and makes contact.
The recently drafted pitcher, Irv Carter, ranks nearly in the middle of the list. The fifth rounder chosen out of high school will be making his professional debut come April. He currently projects as a reliever, but if the 19-year-old can work on his mechanics, his projection can change to that of a starter.
CJ Van Eyk is also featured on this list. I had mentioned in an article and on Twitter that CJ Van Eyk underwent Tommy John surgery to end 2021. He still has potential, but he likely won’t pitch until mid-2023.
Adam Kloffenstein ranks next and after a rough 2021, he has fallen down many prospect lists. 2022 will be a huge season for the 21-year-old, as it looks like he’ll start the season in Double A. He still has loads of potential, however, the results have to come as well.
Tanner Morris is a utility infielder worth watching, as the 23-year-old had a solid slash line in Vancouver while displ …

Read More

Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Ranking defensive trade targets for the Leafs

Between now and the trade deadline I’m sure we have more than enough time to throw as many names against the wall to see if they stick when it comes to who can be the best defensive pickup. Rather than doing that individually for each player over the course of the next month, I thought I’d speed date the non-playoff team defensemen and see who could be the best fit. The hope is that I’d learn a little something about myself along the way.
The approach is a simple one. A twenty-point scorecard with 10 points allocated by contract/player attributes, and 10 points allocated by performance. The end result is a list that will likely upset everyone. I mean I made it and I’m angry at it.
The criteria for the scorecard is as follows:
Performance: Take the score of each player from Evolving Hockey‘s player cards and divide it by 10 for a score based on the maximum of 10 points.
Usage: This was a three-point scale. The top pairing guys are 3 points, the top 4 guys get 2 points, sheltered defensemen get 1 point, and barely in the lineup scores zero.
Cap Hit: Again this was out of three. If the contract is under $1M it scores 3 points. Under $2M it scores 2 points. Under $4M it scores 1 point. Everything else is a zero.


Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Jack Campbell is due for some rest

I’m very aware of how protective Leafs fans are of Jack Campbell, so let me start by saying this is in no way a criticism of Jack Campbell, who is in my mind the clear cut MVP of the Leafs this season. This is however a recognition that despite him not looking terrible in the past few games, this does constitute the toughest stretch of the year for him, and there’s a simple readily available solution, and that is to get him some rest.
Last night marked Campbell matching his Leafs high number of games in the regular season with 22. It also ties Campbell for his second highest total of games played in a season, his highest total being 31. We are 28 games into the season. So when his highest percentage of games played in for a season is just under 40%, there is no doubt a bit of an adjustment to being involved in over 75% of the games and playing at a pace that would see him starting 60 games, a workload he hasn’t had since the 2010-11 season with the Windsor Spitfires, if you include the playoffs. He now has a decade of wear on this body.

Jack …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

A Saturday night in Buffalo is Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll living out his dream

By nature I’m a pretty cynical person, but my cynicism has it’s limit. Tonight is a truly special event, as the chance to witness someone having the most exciting moment of their life. While most of us will look at this as the second half of a back to back with a tired Leafs roster facing a lottery bound Sabres team, for Joseph Woll this is the culmination of chasing a childhood dream, the result of hard work and sacrifice, and his time to do something few others get a chance to do, and that’s start a game as a NHL goaltender.
Yesterday I dove into what could be reasonably expected from Woll in this situation, and that’s important to consider, but this isn’t going to be the game that decides the fate of Woll as a NHL prospect, this isn’t going to fast track him to the NHL or relegate him to a career overseas, it’s just a great moment that I’m hoping to enjoy for what it is. Hopefully for one night we can enjoy this for what it is, someone living their best life.

LW
C
RW
MICHAEL BUNTING


Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Why the Leafs should be patient with calling up Josh Ho-Sang

“I’m happy where I am right now.”
That’s what Josh Ho-Sang said last week when asked about getting to the Leafs. He’s not worried about being a Maple Leafs player or playing in the NHL — the 25-year-old wants to be happy — that’s it.
A lot of fans recently have seen how well Ho-Sang has been doing with the Marlies. At the moment, he has seven points (six goals, one assist) in his first eight games. He’s playing incredibly well.
Well enough that when people see a goal he scores or his stats, they say, “Bring him up to the Leafs.” And that’s not entirely the best idea.
As a person, I want Ho-Sang to have all the success in the world. He’s playing incredibly well for Toronto in the AHL, and the 25-year-old is doing everything that’s asked of him.
The best option right now, though, is patience.
Ho-Sang has played eight games with the Marlies, which is not a sizeable amount of evidence. Arguing his case on why he should be in the NHL doesn’t make sense at this point. He’s shown how good he can be, but he …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

There’s risk attached to signing Robbie Ray

I’m going to say something that’ll sound controversial and I may be dunked on for saying it. However, I think it must be said: In recent days, I’ve started to lean towards not re-signing Robbie Ray.

This isn’t a slight on Robbie, hell, if it’s announced tomorrow that Robbie Ray signs a contract long-term, I’ll be over the moon halfway to the planet Pluto.
So that begs the question, what the hell am I talking about?
Well, I’ll give you one word: Sustainability.
At this point, the word sustainable has likely become my most written word on this site. It sounds crazy that losing Robbie Ray, a Cy Young nominee (and probable winner) helps the organization’s success stay sustainable, but hear me out.
Qualifying Offer:
If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m an Oilers fan (#LetsBrennanWriteForOilersNation). In four years’ time, Connor McDavid’s contract will be expiring. If you aren’t a hockey fan, Connor McDavid is like Mike Trout, that’s to say that he’s the best player in the game’s history.
Despite this, if McDavid decides to sign elsewhere before Edmonton trades …

Read More

Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation