The Toronto Maple Leafs win streak has reaffirmed fans faith in the team. After going on a bit of a skid earlier this season, the Leafs have really bounced back. The Maple Leafs win streak is at five games in a row now (and 8-1-1 in their last 10), and they’ve been looking good while doing it. Everything is coming together. Let’s look at how they’re winning these games and if it’s sustainable.
Breaking Down the Recent Toronto Maple Leafs Losing Streak
Outperforming Their Opponents
During their losing streak, I said the Leafs outperformed their opponents in all of their games, despite losing. The goals would come again with time. It seems exactly that has come true. The Leafs continue to outperform their opponents, having the higher xGF in each of their last 10 games at all situations (according to MoneyPuck). The Leafs have the fourth highest xGF% at 5v5 (according to Natural Stat Trick) in the NHL since March 19th, their first game after returning from a four-day break.
All of the Leafs’ top players are excelling. John Tavares and William Nylander have been playing incredible hockey, especially alongside new linemate Alex Galchenyuk (who we’ll get to later). Auston Matthews has seen his wrist improve, finding his scoring touch yet again.
While their power play only has one goal over this time, it is still generating chances. It ranks at the top half in the NHL in xGF/60 during this timeframe. Like the I stated with the Leafs at 5v5 during their slump, the goals will come and the shooting percentage will turn in their favour if they keep up the quality of play. While they could turn it up still, the power play also shouldn’t be this bad based on current play. It’s the excellent performance at 5v5 that’s so promising, though. Not only are they outperforming their opponents in xG, but they’re actually starting to outscore their opponents on the scoreboard as well.
Getting Great Goaltending
I had a lot of gripes with goaltending. Andersen just wasn’t cutting it, as painful as it is to say. I said that Campbell needed to be able to step in and step up, and boy has he ever. Starting the season 10-0-0, he sits 7th in the NHL in goals saved above expected with 8.67 (according to evolving-hockey), ahead of players like Philipp Grubauer, Igor Shesterkin, Jake Allen, and many more notable goalies. He has a 0.944 save percentage through all situations. He’s been exactly what the Toronto Maple Leafs have needed.
Campbell has been a bit of a saving grace for this team. While the roster wasn’t playing poorly, they had to play just that much better to accommodate the poor goaltending. Campbell has given the Leafs a little bit of leeway with how they can play. They are no longer required to go out and play a perfect 60 minutes and can get bailed out by their goaltender a few times a game.
While it’s practically no question who the starter on this team is now, having Frederik Andersen back to play backup would be more desirable than going into the playoffs with Michael Hutchinson in this role.
The Addition of Alex Galchenyuk
The addition of Alex Galchenyuk on the second line has seen great success. While he only has a single goal so far with the Leafs this season, his quality of play has been incredible. He’s generated 3.22 ixG through 10 games so far (according to MoneyPuck), but he’s been generating more chances the longer he’s been on the team. Seemingly getting more comfortable and generating chemistry with Tavares and Nylander.
His play has more than earned him his spot. Even if he trails off a little, as I expect he will, he has been providing good forechecking and generating lots of chances with top-level linemates.
Is it Sustainable?
Yes and no. The team’s play at 5v5 and all strengths have shown that the Leafs are more than capable of keeping up this level of play. They aren’t however, likely to keep getting Vezina calibre goaltending from Jack Campbell. He’s performed very well over a small sample, but the rate he is playing at is unsustainable. Even if he takes a dip, though, and provides even league average goaltending, the Leafs will still be fine.
They have been playing incredibly well, and their record is finally reflecting it again.
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