It's always amusing when the media is really eager to jump all over any negative stat out there, and at the same time ignore some positive ones. Everyone knows the Leafs penalty kill is struggling and regardless if they win, it will make headlines the next day if they allow even a single power play goal – as was the case after Tuesday’s game vs. Carolina.
What's puzzling is the lack of positives that get missed by the “experts”. Defensively, the Leafs are on quite a streak. They have not allowed a goal 5-on-5 since the middle of the second period vs. the Rangers. That’s three and a half games and almost 10.5 periods! The Leafs did allow an overtime goal 4-on-4 vs. New Jersey but their defense at even strength has been stellar over the last five games allowing just six goals against even with that blemish.
Most of the talk after the game vs. Carolina was about how James Reimer needs to elevate his play in recent games. In the four games since his return from a concussion, he’s allowed just four goals 5-on-5 and only five at even strength. Reimer has gone three straight games without allowing a 5-on-5 goal against, and has given up just one at even strength (4-on-4 in OT) during that time. Yes, the numbers can obviously improve on the penalty kill, but to suggest he hasn’t been playing well and needs to step it up is completely ridiculous.
There has been NO mention of how well the Leafs have been playing defensively, or how teams have had trouble scoring in the last few games against the Leafs without having an extra skater. Nope. All you hear and read is how bad the penalty kill has been recently.
There is nothing wrong with criticism when it is due. The penalty kill is a glaring issue that needs improvement and the media commentary about it is fully justified. The penalty kill has hurt the Leafs over the last few games but their team defense has been excellent at even strength.
Sadly, fans never hear about the latter.