It was a remarkably consistent part of the Toronto Maple Leafs season.
When one line couldn’t score, another would step up and fill the void, so much so that the lowest 10-game segment the Leafs had all year was the 25 goals they scored in the first 10 games of the year.
For the most part, Toronto produced three or more goals a game in 10-game stretches from there on, with the addition of James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri’s rise helping push the Leafs to sixth in NHL scoring with 3.02 per game.
Some of Toronto’s weakest scoring stretches, however, came late in the year, as they dipped down to an average of 2.8 goals a game to close the season even as Phil Kessel caught fire with 10 goals in his final 10 games.
In fact, Kessel became such a large part of the offence in April that over those final 10 games, he was scoring 36 per cent of Toronto’s goals and had points on 61 per cent of them, nearly double the percentage he was in on much of the year.
All about Phil
Phil Kessel's late season hot streak coincided with a fall off in scoring from many of Toronto's secondary scorers, which meant he became a much bigger part of their offence over the final 10 to 15 games. This chart is a 10-game rolling average of the percentage of goals he earned a point on during the regular season.
Kessel’s rise there has as much to do with a lot of the Leafs depth going silent as his strong play, with van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul the only other forwards managing more than five points in Toronto’s final 12 regular-season games.
Kadri and Tyler Bozak had only five, followed by fourth liners Leo Komarov and Jay McClement with four apiece.
Everyone else was below that.
Toronto’s scoring depth, in other words, just hasn’t been there of late. And while it’s only been three games, this is a trend that has continued so far in the postseason, with the Leafs scoring only three even strength goals (all in Game 2) in their series with the generally stingy Boston Bruins.
“Scoring is going to be a premium as the games get more tight,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said on Wednesday as his team prepared for Game 4. “We haven’t scored enough of the dirty goals. I think we’ve had three players provided offence in the playoffs… so we’ve got some other people that we’re looking for to step up and provide some offence.”
The thing is, with Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron paying particularly close attention to Phil Kessel, it’s probably not reasonable to expect him to be able to chip in on 50 or 60 per cent of the Leafs goals, meaning they will need Kadri, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and others to finally break through.
According to their coach, a simpler approach resembling what the Bruins are doing may be the way to go.
“In the playoffs, it’s not about how, it’s about how many,” Carlyle said. “There’s got to be more focus put on the production of offence. One of the ways is throwing the puck to the net, driving the middle lane. If you review the goals the Bruins have scored, two of them basically went off bodies. Those are areas we can improve on.
“When you fire the number of shots we did the other night (47 in Game 3) we’d like to add one or two bodies to the front of the net when that’s happening. Those are things that are little areas you can try to improve on and you plead to your players to go to those tough areas.
“They’ve been able to do that through the course of the season. Now we just have to find a way to do get it done here.”