Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner’s “Poor” Playoffs By The Numbers

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’m going to once again collaborate with long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith to take a look at the numbers (some simple advanced analytics) to see really if might gain more insight about how Mitch Marner played during the regular season when compared to his postseason production.

The 2020-21 Regular Season Was Marner’s Best, Still …

The 2020-21 regular season was Marner’s best season. He scored 20 goals and 47 assists (for 67 points) in 55 games. Given that the season was COVID-19 shortened, those numbers would have translated into 30 goals and 100 points over an 82-game season. However, few fans might ever remember how well the regular season actually went for Marner.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Spezza & More Hyman Rumors

Since the Maple Leafs’ seven-game payoff exit, Marner’s been roasted for playing poorly during the playoffs. There’s a point. He scored zero goals and four assists in seven games. There was even a feeling among many fans that he’d let the team down so badly that he needed to be traded.

In fact, during end-of-the-year media interviews, Auston Matthews was asked about that very possibility. The expression on his face show that he was incredulous – not believing someone ask that question. However, although the interviewer probably should not have expected much of an answer, to his defense he wasn’t too far off the mood of the fanbase he’d probably been hearing from.

The Question We’ll Address in this Post

Here’s the question we trying to answer in this post: “By the numbers, how much worse was Marner in the playoffs than he was during the regular season?”

To answer that question, we’ll compare Marner’s numbers 5-on-5 per 60 minutes during the regular season with these same numbers during the playoffs using the following advanced statistics (as tracked by naturalstattrick).

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Before we offer the numbers, we want to give a short definition for the advanced statistics we’ve used.

Definitions of Advanced Statistics

Corsi (Shot Attempts) For     

Corsi measures shot attempt differential while at even strength play. These measures include shots on goal, missed shots on goal, and blocked shot attempts towards the opposition’s net minus the same shot attempts directed at your own team’s net.   

Fenwick (unblocked shot attempts) For        

Fenwick measures shot attempt differential while playing at even strength. It’s also known as unblocked shot attempts by the NHL. The difference between Fenwick and Corsi is that blocked shots are not counted in Fenwick.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitchell Marner
Toronto Maple Leafs Mitchell Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Derik Hamilton)

Shots For:

Shots For are successful shot attempts. They do not necessarily become goals, but they are successful enough that a goalie must stop it from entering the net. The definition of a shot on net in hockey is a play where the goalie must prevent a puck, propelled towards the net by an opposing player, from entering the net.

Scoring Chance For:

During any game, some shots on net have no chance or a very small chance of becoming a goal. These are not considered Scoring Chances. There are also times when a player has a good Scoring Chance that misses the net or bounces off the iron. These not classified as shots, but they are classified as Scoring Chances. 

High Danger Scoring Chance For:

A High Danger Scoring Chance is a Scoring Chance from the area between the hash marks on the inside of the face-off circles in the offensive zone because that’s where most goals come from.

Expected Goals For:

Expected Goals is a ranking of shot quality and rating its chance of becoming a goal. It takes into consideration things like shot location, whether it was created by a cross ice pass, forcing the goalie to move, or on a rebound, a breakaway, etc. Exact formulas might vary from site to site; and, honestly, we don’t know what the exact formula is. In this post, we’re trusting the people at naturalstattrick. Using Expected Goals takes the goalie out of the equation.

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Goals For:

This is the easiest stat of all. It’s when the puck crosses the goal line, goes into the net, and is counted as a goal. Unlike Expected Goals, Goals For is highly influenced by the goalie.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner and Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Looking at Marner’s Advanced Statistics

The Regular Season vs. The Playoffs

Note that these are “on ice” statistics and represent the number of each Maple Leafs’ statistic while Marner was on the ice.

Offense                                               Reg Season                 Playoffs          Difference

Corsi For                                             53.9                             60.8                 +6.9

Fenwick For                                        41.1                             46.2                 +5.1

Shots For                                             30.0                             37.7                 +7.7

Scoring Chances For                          34.4                             34.2                 -0.2

High Danger Scoring Chances For     13.9                             12.6                 -1.3

Goals For                                            3.69                             1.51                 -2.18

Expected Goals For                            2.72                             3.00                 +0.08

Marner’s Summary:

Finding One: Using these advanced statistics, we can see that when Marner was on the ice 5-on-5, the Maple Leafs had 12.0% more shot attempts, 12.4% more unblocked shot attempts, and 25.7% more actual shots on net in the playoffs than they did in the regular season.

Finding Two: When it comes to Scoring Chances For with Marner on the ice 5-on-5, the Maple Leafs produced virtually identical Scoring Chances, but 9.3% fewer High Danger Scoring Chances in the playoffs than in the regular season.

Finding Three: The most interesting statistic to us is the difference between Goals For and Expected Goals For. The actual goals for dropped from 3.69 during the regular season to 1.51 during the playoffs, a drop of 60% in goal production. But his Expected Goals actually increased in the playoffs from 2.72, to 3.00 (a 10.3% increase).

Looking at Matthews’ Advanced Statistics

The Regular Season vs. The Playoffs

Because Matthews is the primary shooter on that the first line and Marner is the playmaker, to offer a truer comparison of Marner’s effectiveness we decided to also look at Matthews numbers both in the regular season and in the playoffs.

Offense                                               Reg Season                 Playoffs          Difference

Corsi For                                             56.8                             62.3                 +5.5

Fenwick For                                        43.8                             47.0                 +3.2

Shots For                                             31.4                             39                    +7.6

Scoring Chances For                          35.9                             34.0                 -1.9

High Danger Scoring Chances For     15.4                             12.6                 -2.8

Goals For                                            3.74                             1.40                 -2.34

Expected Goals For                            2.91                             3.03                 +0.12

Matthews’ Summary:

Finding One: Using these advanced statistics, we can see that Matthews had much better numbers than Marner in every category during the regular season. We also see that, during the playoffs, he was slightly better in generating Shots For and virtually identical in generating Scoring Chances For and High Danger Scoring Chances. He was slightly worse in Goals For and identical in Expected Goals For.

Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Finding Two: Interestingly, although both Marner and Matthews posted fewer High Danger Scoring Chance numbers, they both posted slightly better Expected Goal Numbers.

Finding Three:  Matthews did indeed have fewer High Danger Chances,15.4 during the regular season and 12.6 during the playoffs. Marner was down 9.4% and Matthews down 18.23%. Bouncing off these numbers, how could the two young forwards actual Goals be down 60% and 63% respectively? We believe the answer is Carey Price.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

As Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas insists, an organization must look at the process and not the results. Given what we’ve found by employing advanced statistics, it appears the process was actually pretty good – much better than fans might have expected. It was the results that suffered.

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Not that he was inclined to do so anyway, with what we found by looking at Marner’s play by the numbers, we can’t see Maple Leafs’ President Brendan Shanahan, Dubas, or head coach Sheldon Keefe abandoning Marner quite yet.

As painful as it is for Maple Leafs’ fans, it’s still a process.

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