Despite having one of the best powerplays this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have really struggled to create chances at times. It can be incredibly frustrating to watch Mitch Marner shoot the puck in the middle of goalies’ chests, but it’s just as frustrating to see Morgan Rielly take one-timers from the right side when the ideal person to do so is Auston Matthews.
After Saturday night against the Oilers, the Leafs had the league’s best powerplay percentage at 33.3%, with Chicago, Buffalo, Washington, and Dallas just behind them. Since the 2018/19 season, the Leafs have trailed Tampa, Boston, Edmonton, and Florida, who have had a powerplay percentage of 24% or better. That’s not to say the Leafs’ 23.8% effectiveness is bad, but they don’t look as dominant as Tampa or Boston have been in recent years.
One of the constants that could change is how the Leafs generate a number of chances from the middle of the slot and the right side of the ice. We can point to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner for that, as the two send the puck towards the net from the right side of the ice a lot more than they do from the left side.
However, what can be really frustrating is that a number of the shots from Mitch Marner aren’t dangerous enough, from not being heavy enough, to not reaching the net (with misses or getting his shots blocked), or he shoots right in the middle of goalies’ chests.
I did not realize how bad Marner is at creating quality chances on the powerplay. His inability to get his shots on goal is an even bigger problem since he’s the quarterback of PP1. pic.twitter.com/r2VE3P2O01
— Matthew Henriques (@CorsiHockey) February 26, 2021
Compare that to William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and John Tavares, Marner has been a sore spot in getting the puck on goal. The other problem is that he only generates 0.8 high danger chances per hour, and 0.9 expected goals per hour, which would be even fewer if we calculated how many high danger chances he creates per powerplay.
However, with powerplays, Marner doesn’t have to generate high danger chances, as creating lateral movement for optimal shots can improve the likelihood of the puck going into the net on the powerplay as well, as we’ve seen with the Tampa Bay Lightning using Kucherov and Stamkos on either side.
Like the Washington Capitals, the Leafs need a one-timer option from the left side. Having two one-timer options will only better the powerplay, as Marner has set up Matthews on the right side, and having Nylander as a one-timer option on the left side doubles the threat.
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) January 10, 2021
The Leafs’ powerplay can improve with little tweaks that can make it that much more lethal. I outlined a number of tweaks that can be implemented by copying what other teams have used in the to improve pre-shot movement while on the powerplay. The Leafs are one of the better teams at generating chances on the man advantage, and making little changes can improve the effectiveness of the unit as a whole.
To sum up the video:
- Have two one timer options: Matthews on the right side and Nylander on the left.
- Have the Nylander on the goal line to tip pucks to the net or bump the puck to the slot to Tavares.
- Have Tavares on the goal line to tip pucks to the net or bump the puck back to the slot to Nylander.
- Have Marner at the point setting up Nylander and Matthews for one-timers