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March 10, 2020


An Opinion and Analysis: [email protected]


The Leafs are basically a one dimensional offensive dominated team with most core top player skill sets speed, puck handling and scoring and these skills are not combined with enough grit, winning contact puck battles, first to pucks, stop on pucks sometimes, block shots, sequeeze out body checks, and don’t always turn away from the opposition puck carrier. When the offence doesn’t excel and score 3 or 4 goals 5 on 5 and on the PP, now what?

So, other teams and coaches knowing the above do the following to stifle the Leafs offence, and it works:

  1. When the opposition has no better than an even percentage to win a 50-50 or better puck on the forecheck in the Leafs zone or when the Leafs have the puck deep in their zone with time and space on a line change or other situation, the opposition backs up and jams the neutral zone with a 1 – 4 or modified 2 – 3 making sure the Leafs can’t enter the offensive zone with puck control very often. This forces the Leafs to play dump and chase more than they would like. The Leafs are a decent forechecking team and win lots of pucks against teams like they played in California but have great difficulty getting quality shots after the forechecking puck win.

Why? Because by the time they win the puck 5 opposition players are back defending the house unlike when they enter the offensive zone 3 on 3, 4 on 3, 3 on 2 say with puck possession. And too much cycling after a forechecking puck win looking for the pretty play and not enough shoot and crash the net.

And unlike the Leafs, many opposition teams have better Dzone coverage skills, tough net front play and block more shots.

So, jamming the neutral zone produces dump-ins which in turn present 5 opposition back defending even when the Leafs win the forechecking puck which in turn produces few quality Leafs shots compared with offensive zone entries with puck possession.

  • When the opposition creates a 50- 50 or better forechecking opportunity and 2 opposition players have speed entering the Leafs zone with a well placed corner or side boards dump-in, F1 takes the man and ties up the Leaf defenceman under stick dislodging the puck for F2 to pick up. Even if the Leafs forward supports the defenceman in the corner, the Leafs often lose the puck battle. Standing still winning puck battles is not the Leafs strength as a whole, and neither is consistent defensive zone coverages, tough net front play and blocking shots.

As an aside, if Barrie is on the ice put the puck to his side deep as he rarely will use his speed to get to the puck first and even if he does he will lose most puck battles. 

On the recent trip to California with Leafs getting one point out of a possible 6 and scoring only 3 goals in 3 games, you could see LA, SJ and Anaheim playing similar to the above, mostly Anaheim, as LA and SJ would default more often to just jamming the neutral zone and foregoing the aggressive forecheck many times.

The Leafs over the 3 games turned the puck over 46 times in their zone after having 100% puck possession even for an instant or an average of about 15 times per game about the same as they have done all year: 26 by defencemen and 20 by forwards in California in 3 games. Both Anaheim’s goals were scored on Dzone cough ups. Should be under 10 Dzone turnovers in total per game.

Matthews and Tavares had 10 of the 20 turnovers by forwards or 50% of all the forwards’ turnovers in the Dzone after 100% puck possession. Barrie, Holl and Rosen had 15 of the 26 turnovers by defencemen after 100 % puck possession in the Dzone, or 57% of all defencemen.


Defence/Goalie                  No. Dzone Turnovers After 100% Puck Possession in 3 Games

Barrie                                    6

Holl                                        5

Rosen                                    4

Dermott                               3

Ceci                                        3

Marincin                               2

Andersen                             2

Liljegren                               1

Total                                   26  Dzone Turnovers

Forwards                  No. Dzone Turnovers

Matthews                            6

Tavares                                 4

Kerfoot                                 3

Nylander                              2

Kapenen                              2

Engvall                                  1

Hyman                                  1

Malgrin                                 1

Total                                      20 Dzone Turnovers

Notice the names that are not there.

Very difficult to fix the above issues to the extent necessary to win the Cup with the current personnel.