The Toronto Maple Leafs have managed just eight goals in their first four games, but they have taken a whopping 148 shots during those games. Panic has set in with fans, many of whom may still be traumatized from the team’s lack of scoring during the last playoffs. But don’t worry because Mitch Marner knows how to get goals, and he explained it to reporters.
Last season’s leading point-getter has just a single assist through the first four games. Marner was asked how do you make them (pucks) drop (go in). With somewhat of a dumbfounded look, Marner said, “the puck goes in, passes the goal line.” He was questioned if he was frustrated; he shook his head and said, “I’m just staying patient. We are getting chances. Our whole line is getting chances. So, stick with it.” Then the inquiry if anything needs to change, to which he responded, “no, nothing.”
Marner’s Last Goal was a Long Time Ago
Marner’s last goal was 165 days ago, on May 8. It was his second-last game of the 2020-21 regular season. He was held off the board for every game in the seven-game playoff series loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Despite the dry spell, his coach isn’t concerned, “there is a lot of attention on production,” said Sheldon Keefe. “He was one of the top scorers in the entire league last season, and he consistently has been. He’s also does a lot of really good things for us without the puck. I am not worried about the offensive side. It is going to come.”
While Marner, the reigning whipping boy of the fan base and the Toronto media, is drawing a lot of attention, the entire team has struggled to find the back of the net. As a result, there is widespread criticism and angst on social media. Still, Keefe isn’t worried or at least isn’t admitting it, “I have no issues with any of our guys and how we have played here through four games.
Maple Leafs Need Dirty Goals
The low goal output is not due to a lack of trying. The team has averaged 37 shots a game, and two of the first four games saw incredible performances by the opposing goaltender. Keefe isn’t using that as an excuse, “for me, we have to focus on the things we can control. We can’t control the goaltender’s performance necessarily. We can control how difficult his game may be.” The coach explained that too many shots are too easy, “we generated a lot of scoring opportunities. A lot of very clean looks at the goaltender, but we don’t want them to always be so clean. We need other people to get around the net. We need to get some deflections. We need to get loose pucks in and around the cage.”
In the last practise, Toronto worked so hard on making life difficult for the netminder that Jack Campbell was sent home early. Keefe said his number one goalie didn’t need to be exposed to that type of practice. A simple translation, there was a lot of work in the blue paint, “that is part of it. Competing in that space, putting pucks into that area, trying to get your stick-free, fighting for positioning — all of those things are a part of it for sure.”
Auston Matthews just returned last game. A few months ago, Marner and Matthews were considered one of the most talented duos in the NHL. Marner put up 67 points in 55 games, and Matthews scored 41 goals in 52 games. The duo worked together to do something never before achieved in the franchise’s 105-year history. Matthews became Toronto’s first-ever winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. From toast of the town to yesterday’s news, how quickly things can change when you play for the Maple Leafs.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.