John E. Sokolowski - USA TODAY Sports

Take Town: Take 'em to the cleaners

The surest sign in the world that a coach is bereft of answers: He starts talking about how the other team (and never ever ever him or his team) is working the refs.

I know you're the Toronto Maple Leafs. I know the default expectation is that you're gonna blow every series no matter what the odds are. I know acting like you can't believe the calls the other team is getting is, to a certain extent, part of every series. But if you're in a game where you get twice as many power plays as the other team, and you've generally carried play against an opponent that frankly isn't that impressive? Come on.

And I'm not gonna sit here and say Brad Marchand isn't working the refs or getting away with things that should be called —that dive in Game 2 was brutal, the interference plays have been pretty obvious, etc. — but I just really don't want to ever hear about how bad the refs are ever. 

Yeah, I know, the league has an officiating problem, but if people are gonna make fun of Jim Montgomery whining about the playoff scheduling (as well they should), Sheldon Keefe's complaints about the officiating while his team's offence once again goes dead quiet is in the same vein. It's one step away from the things fans do all the time, talking for 10 straight minutes about how bad the refs have been and how it's all actually really embarrassing for the league to have playoff games officiated that way and having a litany of specific-if-tenuous examples to cite, before then going, "...but obviously that's not why they lost."

And yet, in this case (as well as, I'm sure, many others in the league's history), what the coach is actually complaining about in this series is not how many power plays the Bruins are getting — the Leafs' power-play differential in the series is 11-9 — but rather, what happens on the power play. Because the Leafs are 1 for 11, while Boston is 4 for 9; one of those PPGs was Marchand's empty-netter last night, so call 'em 3 for 8. The Bruins' power play has not only scored a lot more frequently but also looked a lot more dangerous, and so yeah, I guess it's gonna feel unfair that they're being put in a position to score that you, perhaps, are not, but whose fault is that?

In fact, if we're really talking about what's ailing the Leafs, would it shock you to learn that the offence hasn't really been able to break through in any meaningful way? The Leafs are sixth in the postseason in all-situations expected goals per 60 (3.74), but are in a four-way tie for second-last with the Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, and Washington Capitals in actual goals (2.0). In fact, the way things are trending, this is about to be the fifth time in the last six postseasons that the Leafs underperformed their xG rate, and in the Keefe era, their per-hour underperformance is about 0.55 goals, which is a huge margin.

Probably the refs' fault. Due to how bad they've been. And as for the real thing Marchand is doing to beat the Leafs, I'd wager it has less to do with the calls he's drawing and the penalties he's getting away with, and more to do with the fact that he's personally recorded a point on as many goals (six) as the Leafs have scored in the entire series.

Which, if you run the numbers, is not a new problem at all.

Let’s go: {

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This article is about:
NHL Arizona Coyotes San Jose Sharks Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Brad Marchand Mike Grier Sheldon Keefe David Quinn
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