X

Toronto Maple Leafs' Penalty Kill Is Last in NHL ...and Falling

Eric WarrenCorrespondent IIJanuary 10, 2010

TORONTO - JANUARY 9: The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate Sergei Gonchar goal as Toronto Maple Leafs' Nikolai Kulemin #41 skates away during game action against the Toronto Maple Leafs January 9, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages / Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate a power play goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs en route to a 4-1 beating of the Leafs last night, as a dejected Nikolai Kulemin skates away in frustration.

This is an all-too-familiar picture this year for a club that is struggling to win without having to worry about the weakness of their special team play.

The Toronto Maple Leafs currently sit dead-last in the NHL on the penalty kill at 68.3 percent. The Leafs have scored 122 goals and have allowed a league-worst 158 goals against.

Of those 158 goals, 51 of them have been scored on opposing power plays. If the Leafs were equal to the league average on the penalty kill, 81.37, they would have allowed only 13.3 ppga and their overall goals against would be 120, or two goals less than they have scored.

The Leafs have lost in some fashion—whether it be regulation, overtime, or a shootout—13 games this season by one goal and been involved in one-goal decisions 20 times out of their 46 games played.

If we were to take the 38-goal difference we get if the Leafs penalty kill was equal to the league average of 81.37 percent and spread them over the 20 one-goal games that they have played, they would have scored an additional 1.9 goals for each one of them.

Even if we only applied the additional 1.9 gpg to the 13 one-point losses, they could realistically represent an additional 17 points in the standings. Yes, folks, I said 17 points!

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

I understand that while some of this may be a little bit of wishful thinking, but the numbers don't lie.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs penalty kill wasn't even at the league average, but just a little bit below it, there is a very reasonable chance they would find themselves in sixth or seventh in the Eastern Conference as we speak.

As it is right now, if they had the additional 17 points, they would find themselves with a total of 56 and in fifth place, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The penalty kill in my mind, and as I have illustrated, is the Toronto Maple Leafs biggest problem when it comes to their place in the standings, and while we could all sit here as armchair coaches and tell each other what is wrong, it wouldn't make a difference, would it?

It really is up to the Leafs to first recognize this—and I don't think that they could possibly be oblivious—and then take the necessary steps to fix it.