There’s no question that this Toronto Maple Leafs’ team continues to be an exciting commodity for the NHL from a business standpoint. They have a top six with more raw talent than most of the league and that includes two of the game’s young superstars in Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews.
On top of that, they seem to be trending in the right direction, sitting second in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference overall – behind the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning.
That said, the Maple Leafs’ season can be defined by a number of statistics regardless of the final outcome – a few of which stand out more than others. With that in mind, here’s a look at three interesting – or somewhat wacky – stats from the team’s campaign to this point in the season.
Maple Leafs Undefeated in Third Periods
The first telling stat is the team’s ability to close out games this season. It might not always be pretty – like their 5-4 win on Feb. 6 against the Ottawa Senators – but the fact is the Maple Leafs have had success when it comes to third periods – at least through their first 56 games.
The Maple Leafs have 35 wins in 56 games this season. Of those 35 wins, the team has gone into the third period leading their opponents 27 times. In those games, the Maple Leafs have come out on the winning end 27 times – maintaining a 27-0-0 record when carrying a lead into the third period.
The team has 68 third period goals this season – tied for fifth in the NHL – and have given up just 55 this season. Leading the way for the team is John Tavares who has tallied 10 of his 33 goals this season in the third period – seven less than the leader, Gabriel Landeskog.
No Shootouts For You
It may be, in part, thanks to their third period success this season, but with their ability to close out games both in the third period and overtime, the Maple Leafs remain one of just three teams in the NHL without a shootout appearance this season – along with the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars.
Their lack of appearances in the shootout this season might actually play into their favour.
Aside from last season when they went 7-2 in the shootout, the Maple Leafs haven’t been as successful when it comes to the free breakaways. They went 1-8 in 2016-17 and 6-6 in 2015-16.
Now, those were different teams that didn’t have the talent they have now, but why not win in regulation or at three-on-three if you can? On the other side of the spectrum, both New York teams have made the most shootout appearances this season at eight – with the Islanders sporting a 3-5 record and the Rangers flexing a 6-2 record.
Free Agents Making a Case
Finally, a stat that might be more scary than wacky to Leafs Nation, their list of upcoming free agents (both unrestricted and restricted) might have something to say about how much they get paid next season.
After the Maple Leafs and William Nylander agreed to a six-year, $45-million deal on Dec. 1, the Leafs followed that up by signing their biggest asset in Matthews to a five-year deal worth $58.17 million.
That said, the Maple Leafs are still looking at some signifiant cap issues in order to sign their upcoming free agents leading into next season. Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Jake Gardiner and Garret Sparks are all free agents after this season – Gardiner being the only unrestricted free agent of the group. And all of them have made a case for major increases in salary.
Gardiner could be the sacrificial lamb with the acquisition of Jake Muzzin this season, but that said the Maple Leafs have seen the kind of offensive production he can provide. He’s coming of a 52-point career year in 2017-18 as a 27-year-old and has 27 points in 54 games this season for the Leafs. Where he struggles defensively, he certainly makes up for it on the offensive side of the puck.
As for the group of RFAs, they’ve combined for 52 goals and 131 points through the team’s 56 games this season. Marner’s led the way with 20 goals and 67 points, while Johnsson and Kapanen have 30 points and 34 points, respectively.
As for Sparks, he has a 7-4-1 record this seasons with a .908 save percentage and 2.86 goals against average.
With all that on the table, good luck to the Maple Leafs this offseason when it comes time to pick and choose who will be back for the 2019-2020 season.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.