Game #17: Leafs 4, Hawks 5 – Such a Subtle Difference Between the Fool and the Fearless

How does a team give up nearly 60 shots in a night and not lose the game? It sounds like the start to some frustrating math word problem from 7th grade that I inevitably fucked up, but no, it’s real and it happened in a hockey game tonight. Robin Lehner gave up four goals but still had a .930 SV%. The stats are a numerical funhouse. Let’s get to it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–Wouldn’t you know it, NOT falling behind by a couple goals and taking advantage of the other team’s weakness early on can really be a benefit. The Hawks managed to do exactly that in the first period tonight. They were extremely effective at at the cross pass just above the crease after pulling Hutchinson to his glove side, leaving a nearly wide-open net that the Hawks didn’t miss on, multiple times. The second and fourth goals in particular used this scheme. On the first goal they were set up in the same way but Kane’s shot was deflected off Ceci’s skate so Strome didn’t even have to find a rebound on the glove side. Kane’s backhander for the third goal was also ridiculous, and it came just 10 seconds after Dach’s goal. What I’m saying is, they scored a lot and looked good doing it. Which was good, seeing as they clearly couldn’t keep that up beyond about 20 minutes.

–On that note, as much as I hate to say “the Hawks had a good period but…” that is exactly what I’m going to do. Michael Hutchinson was wretched in the first period. His save percentage was .500 on the first six shots he faced. Put another way, he let in three goals on six shots to kick things off. Again, numerical funhouse. Now, the Hawks do actually deserve credit for playing well in the first, as just described, but Hutchinson’s rough start cannot be denied.

–He did get his shit together in the second, though, and that’s when the Hawks started to cool off considerably. They did have more shots in the second than the first (15 to 12), but that was still fewer than the Leafs (in the first and second periods, but also just overall, more to come on that). Possession wasn’t pretty either—in all situations, the Hawks led in the first with a 51.2 CF%, but in the second that was 46.5. I’m giving the all situations number because between the first two periods there were so many penalties, and offsetting penalties, and then a 4-on-3 and all kinds of wackiness so I’m just keeping it simple. All the way around the Hawks were pinned in their own zone for most of the second and were lucky to get out of it without giving up more goals.

–They made a much more vigorous attempt at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the third. The were outshot 26 to 7, bringing the total difference to 57 to 34 by the end of the game. Can we just reflect on that number for a minute? 57 SHOTS ON FUCKING GOAL HOW IS THAT EVEN REAL. The Hawks should be downright embarrassed, but the Leafs should feel even worse for having NOT WON when having that number of shots. And the Hawks’ possession tanked to 28.6 CF%, again in all situations. The Hawks gave up three goals in the third—if they had lost this game we would be starting our day tomorrow with word of Colliton being fired. He has Brandon Saad to thank for saving his job, at least for another few days.

–I know I’m repeating myself, but playing Kirby Dach with Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula is a waste of time, as is playing Adam Boqvist with Olli Maatta on the third pairing. I don’t give two shits what “development plan” the brain trust claims they have—Dach on a line with two guys who are between “a guy” and “oaf” is not going to help his development. At the same time, how is Zack Smith going to add anything to Kubalik-Kampf? (And the two of them looked good tonight as usual.) Put Dach with them for chrissake and keep Caligula-Shaw-Smith as your fourth line. And yes, Boqvist  finished above water in possession (61 CF% all situations) and had some nice moves at times but it just seems counterproductive to keep him tethered to literally a lead weight.

–Robin Lehner gave us a scare in the third when he sustained a neck injury, which can be chalked up to getting stung by 8 million shots all over his head and upper body. Luckily he was able to stay in the game, and good lord what a game he ended up having. One usually wouldn’t say that after a goalie gives up four goals, but we just covered the amount of shots this poor bastard faced. So you know what, Colliton should buy Saad AND Lehner a steak or a beer or a new house or something, because he’s got Lehner to thank for his stay of execution as well.

Can’t complain too much, I guess, since they did win and they did have one actually quality period. But it still feels tenuous, when the reason you won is getting the jump on a crappy backup goalie and while your own is super-human. Not necessarily a recipe for sustained momentum, yet, onward and upward…

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