The Caps went 2-1-0 vs the Leafs this season. The one loss came in Toronto back in November, when the Leafs won 4-2. But the Caps won the final two matchups of the season, a 6-5 OT win at home in January and a 4-1 victory in Toronto during the first week of April.
The Leafs are a young, fast, dynamic team that, while not the juggernaut the Caps have been this season, certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly. For today, we’re gonna take a look at how the two teams stack up at 5-on-5.
To start, here’s a look at the shot attempt numbers for both teams:
|Team||SA% (NHL rank)|
The Caps were one of the best puck possession teams in the league this season. What may surprise some people is that the Leafs were also inside the top ten.
And here’s a 25-game rolling shot attempt percentage to show the ebbs and flows of the season:
Viz via Corsica
This chart shows good news for Caps fans: the team has been playing its best puck possession hockey towards the end of the season, as indicated by the green line moving up on the y-axis towards the far right of the x-axis. This didn’t always show up on the scoreboard because the Caps’ shooting and save percentages came back down to earth.
Shot-attempt percentage is made up of two components, shot attempts for and against. Here’s how each team fared in those departments this season:
|Shot Attempts For/60||Shot Attempts Against/60|
|Caps||59.0 (7th)||51.5 (3rd)|
|Leafs||61.2 (2nd)||58.7 (24th)|
The Caps are among the better teams in the league both in the rate they take and give up shot attempts. While the Leafs take shots at a dizzying rate, they also allow shots at a really high clip, as only six teams give up more shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than the Leafs and no team has a higher overall game pace. You might hear a lot leading up to this series about how the Leafs are a stereotypical young team in that they sacrifice defense for offense. The shot attempt numbers support this. (Goals at 5-on-5 support this too–the Leafs scored the sixth most goals and allowed the fifth most).
Micah McCurdy has some visualizations that can further show that the Leafs trade a high volume of chances with their opponent. First, here’s where the Leafs take shots from, with the red indicating an area where the Leafs take more shots than league average.
While the Leafs generate a ton of shots from the slot, they bleed shots from the same area in the defensive zone.
(For more visuals like this, be sure to check out Micah’s invaluable site, Hockey Viz)
The Caps were one of the best team at 5-on-5 this season. While the Leafs weren’t among the top teams in the league, they certainly are a formidable opponent. And even more certainly, they will be an entertaining opponent. It will be interesting to see how the Caps’ top-notch defense fares against one of the most up-tempo offenses in the league.
Alright, your turn: What do you think about this series at 5-on-5?
Headline image: Patrick Smith
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