Not sure what to make of these Maple Leafs.

They’re winning, in grand style. They’re beating good teams. They’re young players are their best players. Auston Matthews is a takeaway machine. Mitch Marner and William Nylander have started to score. Frederik Andersen deserves those cheers of “Freddie, Freddie.”

They’re 8-1-0 record since Jan. 24 is the best in the NHL.

But they are also the 21st best 5-on-5 possession team in the same time frame, sandwiched between Montreal and Buffalo, at 47.83 per cent.

So are the Leafs flawed? Or is the stat?

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The Corsi stat — a measure of all shots for versus all shots against — has been a pretty good predictor of The best “possession” teams typically make the playoffs, and the Stanley Cup winner was typically in the top tier. It’s the grand-daddy of the analytics movement.

The devotees of the Corsi stat hit fever pitch in these parts when the Maple Leafs collapsed with a 2-12-0 record in 2014 to miss the playoffs. They were a terrible possession team then — the worst, actually — and their downfall was deemed to have been predictable based on their style of play (based on the rush, and opportunism rather than any kind of sustained forecheck.)

Last year, the Corsi stat took a hit, at least as predictor of Stanley Cup success. Seven of the top 16 Corsi teams missed the playoffs, including six of the top 10, and No. 1 overall (which annually, it seems, is the Los Angeles Kings.) The Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins had the 16th best regular-season Corsi record.

There are probably a couple of reasons, starting with anyone can have an off year, even Corsi. More to the point, though, more teams play a similar style, employing smaller, skilled defencemen who can clear the puck quickly. No one is getting any significant zone time. There are very little differences to distinguish styles of play.

The thing is, it’s doubtful teams take Corsi that seriously. They take the whole of analytics seriously, to be sure, but they are doing their own statistics-keeping beyond what the league makes publicly available, which is the source material for sites like and

Teams measure everything these days, from lefty-vs-lefty neutral zone faceoff success, to where goals come from.

And it’s that last one that matters: High Danger Corsi. Shots from in close, about 20 feet. That’s the sweet spot. Take shots from the perimeter all you like, the defence will say. Get to the danger areas, the coaches will say.

Having another look at last year’s playoffs from a High Danger Corsi perspective, and 14 of the 16 best in that category made the playoffs. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were fifth in that regard.

And the Leafs? They’re average shot distance is 33.8 feet, the shortest in the league. And as far as High Danger Corsi goes, they’re just fine. They’re 10th overall this year (52.35 per cent, or plus 50.) And in this little 8-1-0 run, they’re also 10th, 52.08 per cent, or plus eight.

In other words, the panic of 2014 won’t be reproduced in 2018.

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