Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Leafs 7-3-1. Been there four times before.

A 7-3-1 record to begin a season is definitely nice for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it certainly is far too early to say that record guarantees an overall good season. Indeed, with 36 goals for and 35 allowed, the Leafs may very well come back to earth soon. Over their history, Toronto has in fact started with the exact same 7-3-1 record on four other occaisons. A look at how those seasons turned out:

Led by Curtis Joseph in net, this year's 7-3-1 start featured 32 goals for and only 22 allowed. They sat first in the NHL. They would continue the hot start ending the calendar year at 23-9-4 and finished the season with 100 points, first place in the Northeast Division. Toronto would lose 4 games to 2 in the New Jersey Devils in the second round of the playoffs.

This season's 7-3-1 start included 45 goals for and 32 against and placed them first overall in the NHL. They would win the 12th game before hitting the skids big time. From then until Boxing Day they sputtered along at 4-20-1 costing coach John Brophy his job. Toronto finished with 62 points, third last overall in the NHL.

This year's fast start of 33 goals and 24 against was parlayed into an overall fine season. 7-3-1 put them in second place on Nov.7, one point behind Montreal. They finished the season 37-22-11, solidly in second place and 13 behind the Habs. Leafs would beat the New York Rangers in the semis 4 games to 2 and Chicago in 6 games to win the Cup.

This season's 7-3-1 start was perhaps the most similar to the current season's. 59 years ago they had scored 37 goals and surrendered 35, very close to today's numbers. They were in a tie for first in the league. Within three weeks they had fallen to under .500 and finished 27-30-13, 2 points out of a playoff spot.

So, two of the four times that Toronto started a season with this record, they failed to make the playoffs.

Another interesting way to look at this year's start is looking at all the season's in which Toronto had at least 15 points over the first 11 games. 15 different times Toronto has done this, from the 7-3-1 starts up to the 10-1-0 start of 1993/94. The average final winning percentage of those 15 seasons was .573. If they do that this year, that's 94 points...maybe just enough to make the playoffs. Maybe.

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