It was a tough start to the 2022-23 season, but the Toronto Maple Leafs turned things around and have shown why they’re one of the top teams in the league.
As they’re in the midst of a 14-game streak where they recorded at least a point, the Maple Leafs are second in the Atlantic Division and third overall in the league in points percentage with .724. Not bad for a slow start.
A lot has happened to this point as we approach the holiday season. For the Maple Leafs, Christmas decided to come early once again and they should be grateful to receive a few great gifts from Santa Claus. What did Kris Kringle bring for the blue and white? Here are three early gifts for the 2022-23 season.
Murray and Samsonov in Net
After constant doubts of the team’s goaltending heading into the season, if there’s one gift that the Maple Leafs are happy to have gotten it’s the consistent and stellar play in net from Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov.
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Both goaltenders are big reasons for the Maple Leafs success, even when things weren’t looking like it in the month of October. When Murray was out with an adductor injury, Samsonov shined in net. When Samsonov went down with a knee injury and when Erik Källgren held the fort until Murray came back, Murray looked sound and composed in every outing. Both are giving the team stability in the crease that has alluded this team for some time as general manager Kyle Dubas’ goalie gamble appears to be paying off.
Statistically, the tandem has continued to put up stellar numbers as a dynamic duo in the crease. With a minimum of 10 games played this season, Samsonov ranks second in save percentage with .933 and Murray isn’t that far behind as he’s fourth with .926. In goals against average, Samsonov sits second with 1.87 and Murray is 10th with 2.50. Even breaking down their play at five-on-five with a minimum of 300 minutes played, they’ve been tremendous as they’ve posted impressive results.
|Category||Ilya Samsonov||Matt Murray|
|SV%||.947 (2nd)||.934 (8th)|
|GSAA||6.19 (7th)||3.77 (16th)|
|HDSV%||.902 (4th)||.892 (7th)|
|HDGAA||0.79 (6th)||0.92 (9th)|
Once again, Murray and Samsonov find themselves mostly within the top-10 in each of these categories. The most striking result is their play when things get intense in the high-danger area as they have minimized the goals against as that was an area of concern.
Considering how there was little faith in Murray and Samsonov heading into the season, they got a great gift from Santa as the Maple Leafs have the kind of goaltending needed to win when it matters.
Marner Making History
Nothing has been more impressive than the consistent production from star winger Mitch Marner. After a slow start to the 2021-22 season, it has been anything but this time around as Marner made history surpassing Darryl Sittler and Eddie Olczyk to set the longest point streak in franchise history.
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Marner has only gone pointless in two games this season and the streak shows no signs of slowing down as he now sits at a 22-game point streak. He continues to move up the ranks and is chasing down Patrick Kane’s 26-game streak in 2015 for the longest point streak in the last 15 seasons. Before that, is Sidney Crosby’s 25-game point streak that he had back in 2010.
Marner has been an offensive juggernaut this season. Fellow Maple Leafs writer Andrew Forbes had a fantastic review of Marner’s play during his streak. While he’s finding the scoresheet, his overall two-way play continues to standout as he’s performing well on both sides of the puck. That defensive play is why Marner is finding the success that he’s having as he able to hunt down the puck, battle and regain possession to get more offensive chances and be in the right spot at the right time.
Marner’s production and play could push him into the Selke trophy conversation or even the Hart Trophy talk as what he’s done has been impressive. Seeing Marner make history is a great gift to witness.
Nylander’s Elite Play
Seeing an even more dominant William Nylander is definitely a great way to end this gift list.
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Nylander finds himself in the top-20 in NHL scoring with 33 points, 20 of which have come at even strength. He is also currently on-pace for 48 goals– pushing the 50-mark– and 93 points, which would be career-bests in both categories.
Looking deeper at his numbers at 5v5 with 150 minutes played on the Maple Leafs, Nylander has posted some ridiculous numbers. When he’s on the ice he has the second-best goals for percentage of 70.97%, the best high danger chances for percentage of 59.55% and the third best high danger goals for percentage of 72.73%. Needless to say, he is one of the best offensive producers on this team.
Fans have been constantly pinpointing Nylander’s flaws and how he hasn’t been the best defensively in the past. Well, they can’t say that now as he’s been great on both sides of the puck and should be considered as one of the top wingers in the league.
“Over time, you get sick of having the coach in your ear all the time, and you want to get that sorted out yourself,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said according to Sportsnet’s Luke Fox.
With everyone being on Nylander’s case about his play away from the puck and having the coaching staff push you every single season to get the most out of your play, Nylander has been excelling in both aspects this season. He’s determined every shift and his skating is a big part in why he’s having that success.
“I’m just focused on skating,” Nylander said. “That’s the most important thing for me. It’s helping me create space and get chances out there.”
Nylander’s constantly making things happen on the ice, using his speed to his advantage to force turnovers and apply pressure to regain puck possession. He’s dominating every shift and he’s generating quality looks as a dominant winger. As he continues to reach new heights and promise to his game, this is definitely one gift that fans love to see.
Even though the start wasn’t many had hoped for, the Maple Leafs have been really good this season. Both in terms of their play as of late and being on Santa’s nice list. These are the perfect gifts that the team could ask for before the holidays.
Statistics from Natural Stat Trick and NHL.
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