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Negative shot differential years in the making

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have been out-shot by the opposition in 27 of 30 games in the 2013-14 season. The only thing more remarkable than that statistic is the fact that despite being so heavily out-shot, the Maple Leafs sit in 6th place in the Eastern Conference. There’s no mystery as to how the Leafs have managed to win so many games despite such lopsided shot totals – Toronto’s goaltenders have been stealing games for the team on a regular basis.

Toronto’s -10.4 average shot differential is shocking. The Toronto Maple Leafs rank 28th in the league in shots per game (26.6), and 30th in the league in shots against per game (37.0). Perhaps Leaf Nation should not be so surprised to see the Leafs being out-shot on a nightly basis as they’ve been on a downward trajectory in this category since the 2009-10 season.

The last time the Maple Leafs finished a season with a positive shot differential was the 2009-10 season when they averaged +2.8 shots more than against per game. Since then, they have slipped further and further into the negatives: -2.2 (2010-11), -2.5 (2011-12), -6.0 (2012-13) and finally -10.4 (2013-14).

6th place in the Eastern Conference and 35 points through 30 games is nothing to be ashamed of and if Toronto can sustain this pace they’ll easily find themselves back in the playoffs for a second consecutive season. However, few would argue that they’re playing with fire if they expect to be able to allow 10+ more shots on net per game and think Reimer and Bernier will be able to continue to bail them out.

Why mess with a winning formula? Toronto has a 2-1 record (.667 winning %) in games in which they out-shoot their opponents. That .667 W% is tied for 3rd best in the NHL when out-shooting the opposition. Clearly the Leafs are capable of winning games when they manage to play the odds.

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