Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS
After every month of hockey, it’s good practice to take a look back and assess what happens. That’s my goal here with these posts analyzing the Leafs Game Score for each player for every month. You can find October’s here and November’s here.
For those unfamiliar with Game Score, it’s a single number stat meant to measure single game productivity and player value that I developed over the summer. It basically combines the most important box-score stats and weights them by their relevance to goals. It’s not perfect and there’s much that is unaccounted for, but it does pretty well for something that is relatively simple to compute and comprehend.
The sample is still incredibly small, but I figure taking a look at the team on a monthly basis could provide some insight into how the team is doing. So without further ado, here’s how the Leafs December looked through the eyes of Game Score and some thoughts on it.
1. For the second straight month, Frederik Andersen has been the Leafs best player. He posted an astonishing .948 for the month, the best number among any starter last month. Somehow he only went 5-2-3 in those starts which is downright perplexing and a fault of the team in front of him in a few games where they struggled to score. Among all players in the league, Andersen had the fourth best Game Score and the first among goalies. Watch him get snubbed for the stars of the month because he didn’t get enough wins or something.
2. The number two guy on the list is the number one guy in our hearts. Auston Matthews is the truth and he had an incredible month for the team. Averaging close to four shots per game, he potted eight goals, twice as much as anyone else on the team and chipped in another four assists. Like Andersen, Matthews was also among the top players in the league finishing 28th overall and 8th among skaters on a per game basis.
3. There is a gigantic divide between the top of the team and the bottom of them. There are 12 players above seven and then the next highest is at three. Their top three D were great, and almost their entire top nine too. They were the guys doing the damage for the Leafs in December and carrying the load. That leaves Leo Komarov, the lone top nine player that struggled this month, and then the usual suspects: the fourth line, third pair, and Connor Carrick who has done fine by shot rates, but has shown very little offensive flair lately. Some better contribution at the bottom of the lineup would go a long way.
4. The reason for the split? Pretty much all those guys at the bottom, aside from Carrick, were negative shot rate players last month, while the guys at the top, aside from Nylander, were all positive. The Leafs carry the run of play anytime their top guys are on, but get caved in when the bottom of the lineup rolls in. That’s not news, it’s been that way all season, it’s just a shame because it doesn’t have to be that way. See what Columbus has done with their fourth line for an example.
5. The top three lines though were really balanced this month though. The Matthews line was the best, mostly because Matthews was sensational, but the other two weren’t far off especially if you look at the shot rates where everyone seems to be around +20 for Corsi.
6. Funny enough, your Corsi leader for December was Tyler Bozak. In three less games too. He’s been really good this season in a sheltered scoring role between the Leafs two best wingers. And I guess he wins faceoffs too so that’s something.
7. Jake Gardiner is finally getting top pair minutes and some offensive opportunity and would you look at that he’s crushing them. He’s been great this season and has arguably been the team’s best d-man and the coach is finally trusting him. Yeah, there’s still a few #JakeMoments, but they’re outweighed by all the good he does on the ice. His nine points for the month were actually second to only Matthews which I didn’t expect.
8. I’m not sure how Corsica generates its penalty differential numbers, but these seem a little crazy. The Leafs were -5 as a team for the month, but everyone here pretty much has a negative rate that doesn’t add up. Regardless, getting the calls hasn’t been a strength of this team lately, which is pretty strange because usually teams that have the puck a lot and are as fast as Toronto don’t have a negative penalty differential, but here we are…
9. Going game-by-game now (chart at the bottom), and we’ve got some more Matthews craziness: not a single bad game the entire month and only one game that was fine. That means 11 of 12 were above 0.45. That’s pretty incredible. Not only has he been great, he’s been a consistent performer every single night. Even when he doesn’t get points he does the little things needed to win.
10. On the flipside there’s Matt Martin… who is a different kind of consistent. Martin averaged 7.4 minutes last month, did very little in them, is taking a roster spot that can be better served by someone else, and gets to cash in $2.5 million this season as a result. Good for him I guess.