The Toronto Maple Leafs have gotten off to a slow start in Mike Babcock’s first season as its head coach, but have started playing better as of late.
The Leafs were 1-8-2 after the first 11 games of the season, but are 6-2-3 since then. In the first 12 games of the season, the Leafs averaged only 2.17 goals for per game and gave up 3.33 goals per game. In the last 10 games, the Leafs have averaged 2.50 goals for per game and are averaging only 2.20 goals against per game. In the last 10 games, the Leafs have only given up three goals three times, but in the first 12 games the opponent scored three or more goals on the Leafs nine times.
A big reason for the turn around has been the play of goaltender James Reimer. The goaltending was a big question going into the season for the Leafs. Reimer has played in 15 games this season while compiling a 7-3-4 record. He has a .934 save percentage to go along with a 2.07 goals against average. In eight home games, he is 3-2-3 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against average. In seven games on the road, he is 4-1-1 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.60 goals against average. Reimer has emerged as the Leafs number one goaltender, while Jonathan Bernier has struggled.
The offense has also struggled for the Leafs, who have only scored 49 total goals in 22 games played this season. They are averaging 2.23 goals for per game, which puts them towards the bottom of the league (25th). Joffrey Lupul leads the way with eight goals, while Tyler Bozak leads the team in total points with 14. Bozak, Morgan Rielly and Dion Phaneuf are all tied for the team’s lead in assists with 10. It would help the offense if Nazem Kadri could put the puck in the net. He has two goals on the season and 87 shots on goal.
The special teams aren’t as bad as they were last season. The Leafs power play is ranked 18th in the League at 18.8%. They have converted on 13 of their 69 opportunities. P.A. Parenteau leads the team with four power play goals. The home power play is operation at a 25.0% clip, while the road power play is struggling at 10.3%.
The Leafs penalty kill is ranked 12th in the League and is killing off 81.7% of the opportunites its faced with. The home penalty kill is ranked 23rd at 77.4% while the road penalty kill is ranked fifth at 85.0%. The Leafs have given up seven power play goals against at home in 31 opportunites. On the road, the team has given up six power play goals against while being shorthanded 40 times.
Mike Babcock wants this team to be a more of a possession team than it has in the past. It all starts with winning face-offs, which Toronto has been okay at, but could improve. The Leafs have won a total of 735 face-offs while losing 721 for a 50.5% winning percentage in the circle. The Leafs are ranked 13th in the League on winning faceoffs.
The results of the Leafs first quarter of the season shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone since there was a lot of player turnover, a new coach and a new system to learn in a short amount of time.