By Stan Smith
In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs Quick Hits, Stan Smith takes a look at what’s happening with and for the team as Game 3 looms tonight.
Quick Hit One: Marner Tops Scoring After Two Games
Mitch Marner finds himself in first place in NHL scoring for the playoffs after two games. His six points put him in a tie with Adam Fox of the New York Rangers. Marner has two goals to go along with his four assists, while Fox has six assists. When there is a tie for points the tiebreaker is whichever player has the most goals. In this case, it is Marner that would win the tiebreaker.
Quick Hit Two: Four Maple Leafs Players Climbing All-Time Record Book
Four players from the present team are among the 30 all-time Maple Leafs’ scorers in the playoffs. Marner is tied with Nick Metz (1934-48) for 17th place with 39 points. Auston Matthews is tied with Lanny McDonald (1973-81) and Dick Duff (1954-1965) for 20th place with 37 points. William Nylander is all by himself in 25th place with 33 points. Morgan Rielly is in 28th place overall, and 7th for defensemen with 29 points.
Quick Hit Three: Maple Leafs’ Slow Starts
We have written previously about the Maple Leafs’ tendency towards slow starts in games. It was a common theme for them down the stretch and carried through to the first two games in this series. With the series returning to Tampa Bay, the Lightning will be playing before their home crowd.
That fact, coupled with the embarrassing loss they suffered in Game 2, fully suggests the Lightning will come out of the blocks with purpose in Game 3. It will be important for the Maple Leafs to survive the original onslaught we expect to see. Perhaps, they might even take advantage of it to look for opportunities to create odd-man rushes the other way.
Quick Hit Four: Penalties
We have also discussed the importance of the Maple Leafs staying out of the penalty box. On the surface that seems obvious. It is difficult to play winning hockey if you are short a player. Another reason is in the two games played the Maple Leafs have had a distinct advantage in High-Danger Scoring Chances and Expected Goals when the teams have played five-on-five.
According to Naturalstattrick.com at five-on-five, Toronto has had 27 High-Danger Scoring Chances to Tampa’s 12, or 70% of the High-Danger Chances. The Maple Leafs have also had 62% of the Expected Goals.
Quick Hit Five: The NHL’s Definitions of Penalties
On the topic of penalties, there has seemed to be an abundance of hooking and slashing penalties called in all of the series I have watched. Some of the hooking penalties I have seen have been in situations where a player has appeared to have simply lifted another player’s stick preventing him from playing the puck.
Some of the slashing penalties have appeared to be players without the puck trying to knock the puck off of the stick of the player with the puck. It has made me wonder exactly what the definition of hooking and slashing is in the NHL rulebook. Specifically, Matthew Knies had an odd call on him during Game 2.
Slashing and Hooking Penalty Definitions
Here are the pertinent parts of the rules for each penalty from the NHL rulebook.
55.1 Hooking – Hooking is the act of using the stick in a manner that enables a player to restrain an opponent
61.1 Slashing – Slashing is the act of a player swinging his stick at an opponent, whether contact is made or not.
That’s it. Those are the rules. Each rule does come with some further explanation. The slashing rule does go on to say the following:
Non-aggressive stick contact to the pant or front of the shin pads, should not be penalized as slashing. Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on or near the opponent’s hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.
The hooking rule goes on to say the following:
When a player is checking another in such a way that there is only stick-to-stick contact, such action is not to be penalized as hooking.
A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who impedes the progress of an opponent by “hooking” with his stick. A minor penalty for hooking shall be assessed to any player who uses the shaft of the stick above the upper hand to hold or hook an opponent.
The Rules Are Highly Interpretive
Both of those rules seem extremely vague and open to interpretation. The slashing rule even goes as far as to state “in the judgment of the Referee.” It is easy to see why there would be situations where the same play as seen by two different referees could be called differently. To make matters even more complicated there are two referees in each game and each one of them could have a different interpretation of a certain rule.
I don’t think knowing all of that helps us to understand what would and should be called. It has to be extremely difficult for the players to know what to expect, as well as what they can or can’t do.
We hope for some consistency in what is called or not called.