• Follow us

Sport

Why the Maple Leafs thrive five-on-five | The Star

Though they’re millionaires accustomed to travel in catered charter jets and private luxury automobiles, the Maple Leafs went into community-outreach mode on Thursday.

A bunch of them hopped the subway to an 11 a.m. outdoor practice at Nathan Phillips Square. All of them, including goaltender Frederik Andersen, made the trek wearing full equipment. Apparently nobody told them helmets and goalie paddles are really only necessary at rush hour.

John Tavares tests Frederik Andersen during the Leafs’ three-on-three tourney at Thursday’s outdoor practice at Nathan Phillips Square.John Tavares tests Frederik Andersen during the Leafs’ three-on-three tourney at Thursday’s outdoor practice at Nathan Phillips Square.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

“Sometimes it can be a full mugging, so you’ve got to be careful,” explained Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, speaking of the perils of public transport.

Babcock, who described himself as only an occasional partaker in mass transit, mostly prefers his daily commute to practice in a jumbo pickup truck. So as the Maple Leafs made their journey on the Yonge-University line toward city hall, they were accompanied by what forward Zach Hyman described as “a bunch of policemen.” As Babcock famously opined a while back: This team’s toughness is its power play. If that fails, as it often has this season, it’s nice to have armed backup.

Babcock was asked if he received any advice from the unwashed en route to the skate.

Article Continued Below

“I didn’t get any advice,” said the coach. “They were smart enough to know.”

Smart enough to know he wouldn’t listen, is what he meant. And why shouldn’t the 55-year-old bench boss be so sure of himself? The Maple Leafs have extracted nine of a possible 10 points from their most recent five games, a stretch that’s included wins over Washington and Pittsburgh. And while they’re about to embark on the challenge of their longest road trip of the season — six games over 10 days and four time zones — the Maple Leafs have played better on the road than at home this season. So certainly there are reasons to be bullish on their long-term prospects.

To name one: Heading into Thursday’s slate of games, the Maple Leafs led the NHL in five-on-five goals. That number explains how, despite a power play that’s slumped badly, they remain one of the most potent offensive teams in the league.

In the past 20 years, only one NHL team has scored more than 200 five-on-five goals in a regular season — the 2009-10 Washington Capitals, who scored 208. This year’s Maple Leafs are on pace to score 213. Now, that’s in part because the NHL is experiencing an intriguing offensive explosion, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the clutch-and-grab crackdown after the 2005 Shanahan Summit.

It’s also because the Leafs are undeniably good. Heading into Thursday, Toronto’s John Tavares was leading the league in five-on-five goals with 25. He and linemate Mitch Marner ranked third and sixth, respectively, in five-on-five points. Toronto, which ranks third in the league with a plus-40 goal differential, is plus-36 at five-on-five.

How are they doing it? There are signs they’re slowly morphing into the team Babcock has always wanted them to be. As Mike Kelly, the hockey-stats analyst, pointed out on Twitter in the lead-up to Toronto’s 5-4 win over the Senators on Wednesday night, since Dec. 1 the Maple Leafs are leading the NHL in even-strength offensive zone puck possession — spending about 5:36 a game rolling around in their opponents’ end. A number like that surely pleases the coach. The Leafs may not be anyone’s idea of a physically tough team. But leading the league in offensive-zone time, even if it’s over a sample of a little more than two months, suggests they’re figuring out how to play the “heavy” style Babcock favours.

“Being heavy isn’t getting on a scale and measuring yourself; it’s a state of mind,” Babcock said back in early January. “It’s heavy on offence. It’s having the puck. It’s getting the puck back all the time. It’s checking it back. It’s putting your work in front of your skill. It’s being determined offensively, not coming down, having a rush and being one-and-done. It’s multiple-shot shifts. It’s having some jam.”

Article Continued Below

There are more than a few reasons to believe the Maple Leafs are discovering the merits of those urgings. Maybe it’s the influence of Tavares, an experienced hybrid of prodigious skill and punishment-taking ruggedness. As Kelly’s site, ThePointHockey.com, will tell you, Tavares led the NHL in shots from the slot with 145 heading into Thursday. And if the Maple Leafs, at their worst, can be accused of avoiding heavy traffic by hanging out on the perimeter, this season they’re finding plenty of opportunities from in close. As of Thursday afternoon, Toronto ranked second in shots from the inner slot, averaging 8.5 a game.

The Maple Leafs are still a potent team off the rush, of course, as Wednesday’s give-and-go clinic of a run-and-gun win underlined. To Babcock’s point, spending time in the offensive zone wears an opponent down, which only heightens Toronto’s usual speed advantage as a game wears on.

If Toronto could only get its power play working, they’d really be on to something. Since the day in early December when Babcock declared “our toughness is our power play,” only the lowly Ducks and Blues had scored fewer goals with the man advantage than the Leafs as of Thursday afternoon. Toronto had converted on just 14 per cent of its opportunities over that two-month span.

In the lead-up to Thursday’s practice there wasn’t a subway commuter brave enough to circumvent the police escort and offer Babcock an antidote to the special-teams putridness, although the coach acknowledged he’s accustomed to fielding unsolicited solutions to the Maple Leafs’ woes.

“No question about it,” said the coach. “But I often ask the guy (offering advice), ‘What do you do for a living? If you want me to come by and fix your company, I’m happy to do that in a few days, too.’”

As it happens, we in the thriving fish-wrap industry may or may not be in the market for a turnaround specialist. Excuse us if we wait to call in Babcock until his team makes a trip to city hall via ticker-tape parade.

Dave Feschuk is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @dfeschuk

SPORTS ACTION AND RE-ACTION DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX.

NEW NEWSLETTERSPORTS

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

TORONTO STAR | SPORTS

Félix Auger-Aliassime reaches career high at Rio Open 2019-02-21 17:48:33The 18-year-old Canadian tennis player has reached his first ATP Tour 500 quarterfinal.

Blue Jays’ dynamic trio make good first impressions 2019-02-21 17:35:03Prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio impress GM with energy and focus in Dunedin. Ryan Borucki will start pre-season opener v

One day the Raptors will honour their best. 2019-02-21 15:36:00In every imaginable metric DeRozan is the kind of player a franchise would want to honour and to hold up as an example of what the team wants to be, D

Washington Capitals acquire forward Carl Hagelin from Kings 2019-02-21 12:59:25The Kings will retain 50 per cent of Hagelin’s remaining salary this season, according to a person familiar with the terms of the deal, and will

The NBA is crazy for Zion. His injury 2019-02-21 11:45:27Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said that his star freshman suffered only a “minor knee sprain” when his Nike sneaker blew out, and that

British Columbia’s Wark upsets Manitoba’s Fleury in Scotties 2019-02-21 11:38:24The Scotties rookie defeated Manitoba’s Tracy Fleury 8-5 in a tiebreaker game Thursday morning at the national women’s curling championshi

Nylander moves to centre with Kadri sidelined by 2019-02-21 11:35:00Leafs coach Mike Babcock also reunites Jake Gardiner with Nikita Zaitsev for game against the Washington Capitals.

Canadian MMA star Georges St-Pierre announces his retirement 2019-02-21 10:58:23St-Pierre leaves as one of the greatest fighters of all-time, with a record of 26-2-0 and a 13-fight winning streak.

Brooke Henderson three back after opening round of 2019-02-21 10:18:49The bogey-free day marked Henderson’s first competitive round since the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Florida ended on Jan. 20. The

The NBA playoff push starts now with all-star 2019-02-21 10:12:48Nobody has officially clinched a spot yet, though it would take a highly improbable series of events for the current top teams in the Eastern and West

Murray’s mother says former Wimbledon champ could play 2019-02-21 10:07:48Murray lost in the first round in Melbourne and had hip resurfacing surgery about two weeks ago.

Duncan Keith is proud of hitting 30,000-minute mark, 2019-02-21 10:04:48Keith has led the Hawks in ice time each of his 14 seasons, and he will likely make it a 15th straight when this season is in the books. Keith’s

CBC | Sports News

Why Zion's broken basketball shoe is such a 2019-02-21 16:37:51The most exciting basketball talent to come along in years hurt his knee when his shoe fell apart during a big game. Here's what it means for Zion Wi

Nike 'wardrobe malfunction' causes stock and memes to 2019-02-21 16:14:20Duke star Zion Williamson, the potential first overall pick in this June's NBA draft, was not seriously injured after exploding through his Nike shoe

Brooke Henderson returns from illness, 3 back in 2019-02-21 16:05:38Canada's Brooke Henderson is three shots behind leader Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea after shooting a 6-under 66 in the opening round of Honda LPGA Thail

9 worst NHL deadline deals...in 90 seconds 2019-02-21 15:57:00With the NHL's trade deadline just days away, Rob Pizzo looks back at 9 deals that some GM's would love to forget.

Canada's Auger-Aliassime takes big step with run to 2019-02-21 15:39:51Canadian teen Felix Auger-Aliassime has reached his first ATP Tour 500 quarter-final this week at the Rio Open with a couple of impressive victories o

(Live at 1:30 pm ET) 2019 World Para 2019-02-21 13:30:00Biathlon, individual World Para Nordic Skiing Championships at the Nordic Centre, Prince George, Canada.

Syracuse basketball coach Boeheim strikes, kills pedestrian on 2019-02-21 13:07:19Longtime Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man standing along an interstate late Wednesday night as he tried to avoid hitting

Get hip to this: Paris wants Olympic debut 2019-02-21 12:39:39Breakdancing's conquest of the globe seemingly knows no bounds. Getting hip to breakdancing's appeal with young audiences, organizers of the 2024 Pa

Jones gets her groove back, hands Carey 1st 2019-02-21 12:35:11Team Canada's Jennifer Jones did not look like a six-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion during the preliminary round at Centre 200.

Saskatchewan's Robyn Silvernagle trying to live up to 2019-02-21 11:43:42Saskatchewan's Robyn Silvernagle never got to know the late Sandra Schmirler as closely as she would have liked, but the skip is making an impact at

Jordan Binnington: From almost an afterthought to 'the 2019-02-21 11:30:59Not long ago, Jordan Binnington thought his days in the St. Louis Blues organization would end without much fanfare. But the goalie from Richmond Hill

Canadian MMA star Georges St-Pierre announces his retirement 2019-02-21 10:22:48Georges St-Pierre, a two-division UFC champion who put mixed martial arts on the map in Canada, is retiring. The 37-year-old from St-Isidore, Que., ma

LaPresse.ca - Sports

Jennifer Abel tentera de déloger Alexandre Despatie et 2019-02-21 15:12:00Jennifer Abel est en mission. Elle tentera lors des Championnats du monde de natation de Gwangju l'été prochain de devenir l'athl&egra

Séjour brésilien fructueux pour Félix Auger-Aliassime 2019-02-21 14:57:00Félix Auger-Aliassime s'est retrouvé en territoire inconnu après avoir connu un départ chancelant en 2019.

Flyers: une chance pour Philippe Myers 2019-02-21 13:00:00C'était le 27 juin 2015. Pendant que les meilleurs espoirs de son âge étaient réunis à Sunrise, en Florid

Phillip Danault de retour en poste 2019-02-21 11:19:00Phillip Danault avait le sourire facile ce jeudi matin.

Charlie Coyle, dernier vestige de l'échange de Brent 2019-02-21 11:15:00Le transfert de Charlie Coyle du Minnesota à Boston, hier soir, a sans doute rappelé au DG des Flyers de Philadelphie, Chuck Fletcher, d

Georges St-Pierre: «C'est une heureuse journée» 2019-02-21 10:40:00Il n'y avait pas le début d'une larme, mais de larges sourires dans ce qu'il considérait comme une « heureuse journé

Les Bruins signent un septième gain de suite 2019-02-21 10:06:00David Backes a marqué au sixième tour de la fusillade et les Bruins de Boston ont mérité un septième gain d'affil&

Alex Harvey: «C'est le bon moment de me retirer» 2019-02-21 10:02:00Pas plus tard que jeudi dernier, Alex Harvey ne fermait pas la porte à une participation aux Jeux olympiques de 2022. Lundi, il confirmait pour

Entente imminente entre Luc Brodeur-Jourdain et les Alouettes 2019-02-21 09:54:00Rien n'est encore officiel, mais ça ne semble plus être qu'une simple formalité. Luc Brodeur-Jourdain disputera une 11e sai

Entrée réussie pour Nate Thompson 2019-02-21 09:34:00Disons les choses franchement: on a déjà vu des transactions plus excitantes que celle qui a permis au Canadien d'acquérir

Alex Harvey éliminé en quarts de finale du 2019-02-21 08:25:00Le Norvégien Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo a remporté le sprint individuel style libre aux Championnats du monde de ski de fond de Seefeld, j

Les plans pourraient changer à Anaheim 2019-02-20 12:30:00Si le Canadien et ses fans rêvent encore aux défenseurs Hampus Lindholm ou Cam Fowler, les Ducks devront arrêter de gagner des matc

Global News : Sports

Denny Hamlin wins crash-filled Daytona 500 that had 2019-02-17 19:12:21The race was stopped twice for nearly 40 minutes for a flurry of late accidents — there were five wrecks in the final 20 laps of regulation &mda

Carolina Hurricanes storm against Don Cherry after he 2019-02-17 18:35:29Canadian hockey commentator Don Cherry called the Carolina Hurricanes' hockey players "jerks" for their unusual after-game celebrations, and the te

WATCH: Diallo jumps over 7-foot Shaquille O’Neal to 2019-02-17 13:12:25Oklahoma City's Hamidou Diallo soared over the seven-foot Shaquille O'Neal to help win the 2019 Slam Dunk competition.

Colin Kaepernick will play in the NFL again, 2019-02-17 11:37:49Attorney Mark Geragos told CNN that Kaepernick "absolutely wants to play" and made a pretty bold prediction about when that might happen.

Canadian RJ Barrett has triple-double, No. 2 Duke 2019-02-16 22:46:48Canadian RJ Barrett had Duke's first triple-double in 13 years, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

NFL settles collusion grievances with Colin Kaepernick and 2019-02-16 20:22:33A confidentiality agreement prevented both sides from commenting - it remains unclear if the NFL admitted wrongdoing or how much money Reid, Kaepernic

Africa is getting its own pro basketball league, 2019-02-16 17:10:55The initial plan is for the 12-team league to begin play in January, and former U.S. President Barack Obama is among those who are expected to have di

Athanasiou, Howard lead Detroit Red Wings past Ottawa 2019-02-14 23:13:08Frans Nielsen scored to break a 2-2 tie late in the second period, leading the Red Wings to a 3-2 win against the Senators.

Siakam, Anunoby lead Raptors past Wizards with Leonard 2019-02-13 23:44:35The Raptors took home the win on Jeremy Lin's first game with the team.

Sherbrooke revives bid for Francophonie Games after N.B. 2019-02-12 14:45:44It is now up to the Quebec government to submit Sherbrooke's candidacy to la Francophonie, the organization of states that have French as a common la

Sherbrooke to consider holding Francophonie Games after N.B. 2019-02-05 12:05:11Sherbrooke Mayor Steve Lussier announced at a meeting Monday night that council will take another look.

Patriots ride through Boston in Super Bowl victory 2019-02-05 10:26:56Tens of thousands of giddy fans are converging on Boston for a parade celebrating the New England Patriots' sixth Super Bowl title.

Top Sports stories

EDITORIAL: Ford right to rein in SIU 2019-02-21 18:43:46We agree with Premier Doug Ford’s planned legislation to limit the mandate of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit when it comes to

CFL doubles up, awarding 2020, ’21 Grey Cups 2019-02-21 18:40:03The Canadian Football League went for two on Thursday — awarding the 2020 Grey Cup to Regina and the 2021 game to Hamilton — and in so doi

LILLEY: Civil servant insists pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould 2019-02-21 18:35:17Canada’s top public servant admitted on Thursday that he met with the former attorney general and spoke to her about the jobs that would be lost

Letters to the Editor, Feb. 22 2019-02-21 18:31:27AMBER ALERT Re: “Disappointing and upsetting” (Editorial, Feb 15): I remember reacting very badly to the Amber Alert in May 2018 blasting

Senior citizen charged with stunt driving 2019-02-21 18:09:16A senior citizen has been charged with stunt driving and speeding after he was allegedly caught travelling more than twice the posted speed limit in S

Montoyo ponders Guerrero’s spot in Blue Jays batting 2019-02-21 18:01:03DUNEDIN — Charlie Montoyo has been so busy with the logistics of training camp that he has had little opportunity to watch baseball’s undi

McArthur arrested, released without charges for 2016 assault: 2019-02-21 17:44:19Serial killer Bruce McArthur convinced police in 2016 that a casual sex partner he’d strangled simply wanted “rough sex,” newly-unse

Brampton man charged with child luring on Valentine’s 2019-02-21 17:36:04A 39-year-old Brampton man allegedly looking for teenage love online was charged with child luring on Valentine’s Day. Peel Regional Police say

Toronto police arrest man in two separate homicides 2019-02-21 17:27:38City cops have a suspect in custody in connection with two separate Toronto homicides. Ibrahim Khiar, 33, was arrested Wednesday — charged with

Driver of stolen pickup sought after ramming police 2019-02-21 17:23:32Investigators need help identifying a man who rammed a stolen vehicle into a police cruiser in Newmarket on Tuesday. York Regional Police say the driv

Surf-and-turf inmate a gang leader and gun trafficker 2019-02-20 20:08:01Infamous surf-and-turf  jailhouse diner Jahmal Richardson admitted Wednesday he was a gang leader and pimp involved in human and firearm traffick

MANDEL: Son of murdered mom is silenced 2019-02-20 20:05:05Jeremy Mead’s words of outrage and heartbreak won’t be heard when his mother’s killer comes back up for parole at his cushy Native h

Sports

Okwonkwo est enfin arrivé au camp 2019-02-21 18:49:50Obtenu en prêt du FC Bologne le 12 février dernier, le jeune attaquant nigérian Orji Okwonkwo a finalement rejoint l’é

Georges St-Pierre déçu, mais pas amer envers le 2019-02-21 18:40:00St-Pierre n’a pas pu obtenir un dernier combat.

Une année à combattre le stress pour Meaghan 2019-02-21 16:55:22L’aura des Jeux olympiques de Tokyo flotte déjà autour de l’équipe canadienne de plongeon, qui procédait, jeud

Les combats qui ont marqué le parcours de 2019-02-21 16:23:02Nouveau retraité du sport, Georges St-Pierre restera parmi les plus grands des arts martiaux mixtes.

Sécurité dans le sport: Ottawa lance une série 2019-02-21 15:52:35Le gouvernement fédéral a annoncé jeudi qu’il investira 209 000$ dans une série de sommets sur la sécurit&eac

Blue Jackets : le malaise Duclair 2019-02-21 15:46:15Si la majorité des joueurs semblaient heureux d'être restés à Montréal cette semaine, ce n'était déf

Des étudiants souhaitent que les Predators de Nashville 2019-02-21 15:10:22Un groupe d’étudiants de l’Université Emory d’Atlanta suggère que l’équipe du Tennessee devrait pl

Nathan MacKinnon régulier comme l’horloge 2019-02-21 14:46:00Nathan MacKinnon ne dérougit pas, puisqu’il a atteint le plateau des 30 buts pour une deuxième saison consécutive.

Lance Stroll complète sa première semaine d’essais 2019-02-21 13:27:37Lance Stroll a effectué 72 tours lors de la quatrième journée d’essais hivernaux de Formule 1 sur le circuit de Barcelone-C

Carl Hagelin s’envole pour Washington 2019-02-21 13:10:45Les Capitals de Washington ont acquis l’attaquant Carl Hagelin des Kings de Los Angeles, jeudi.

Alex Harvey ne franchit pas les quarts aux 2019-02-21 12:09:48Le Québécois s’est arrêté aux quarts de finale de l’épreuve du sprint style libre des Championnats du mo

Un papa heureux: Phillip Danault sera en uniforme 2019-02-21 12:03:44Phillip Danault sera en uniforme face aux Flyers de Philadelphie


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.