Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Toronto Maple Leafs center Daniel Winnik has the puck knocked off his stick by Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey at Air Canada Centre.

Early in an NHL season, you'll hear the same refrain again and again.

"It's early, so we don't know if this will continue."

So it goes with the Toronto Maple Leafs penalty kill, which is back up at more than 86 per cent after bottoming out to third worst in the league a year ago, one area that really hurt late in the year.

Story continues below advertisement

The trouble with drawing any significant conclusions from what we've witnessed this year is the Leafs have only been shorthanded 22 times after six games, but what we can deduce is their shot and shot attempt rate against has come down, which are generally indicators of improvement.

Last year, for example, the Leafs started the season not allowing many goals on the PK, but the indicators were very poor.

This year, they're tracking much better.

 

SHGA/60

SHSA/60

SHFA/60

This season

5.2

47.1

71.5

Last season

7.9

60.1

84.1

2012-13

4.4

44.1

65.4

A little of what we see in the goals against figure is goaltending. The Leafs shorthanded save percentage in the lockout shortened season was an unsustainably high .901, which dipped to .869 last year and is up to .889 after six games this year.

But the shot and Fenwick rate (which includes missed shots to give us an idea of time spent in the zone) are well down, almost to as low as they were in 2012-13 when the Leafs had the NHL's second best penalty kill (87.9 per cent).

TSN's Jonas Siegel has a good piece on the Leafs PK, but one of the issues is the players quoted are very short on details. The Leafs aren't talking a whole lot of strategy this year, which is probably wise given how heavily covered they are.

What we've clearly seen so far in games is a more aggressive unit, both in zone and in pressuring down the ice, so that is likely part of the improvement in that SHFA/60 number.

Story continues below advertisement

The other thing is the Leafs were absolutely terrible on the draw while shorthanded last year (43.8 per cent) and that's started to come up some.

The biggest impact, however, is likely changed personnel. The Leafs have had the best results so far this year with Stuart Percy, Dan Winnik, Brandon Kozun, James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov on the ice, and only JVR was on the team last year.

Their worst results a year ago, meanwhile, were with Jay McClement, Nikolai Kulemin, Dion Phaneuf, Tim Gleason and Carl Gunnarsson out there. Other than the captain, they're all gone.

There's a lot of focus this year on the Leafs even strength play, and that's with good reason. But the penalty kill gave up 0.71 goals per game last year after conceding less than 0.40 the year earlier.

That means it explained more than 75 per cent of their goals against increase year over year.

It's absolutely vital Toronto gets its goals against back under 2.85 per game this season, and improving on the PK will have to be a big part of that.

Story continues below advertisement

So far, there are signs they have.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies