At the beginning of the season, there was disapproval surrounding Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Mitch Marner with his early season production. In his first eight games, he only had two assists and fans were disgruntled with the lack of points from the star winger.
Fast forward to the All-Star break, Marner is in the midst of one of his hottest streaks. He has scored in seven straight games, finding the back of the net eight times and adding eight assists for 16 points. All while breaking one of the most questionable scoring droughts in the process.
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Marner has found a way to elevate his offensive production and be more than just a playmaker at the best time. He’s added goals scoring to his arsenal, making the Maple Leafs offense even more dangerous in the offensive zone. As fans were calling for him to step up his game, he’s gone to new heights as he has re-discovered his scoring touch.
Marner’s Finally Got the Right Mindset
Since coming back from an injury and COVID-19 protocol, Marner has been an unstoppable force for the team. He faced heavy criticism from the playoffs where he was invisible and from the onset of the season where his production wasn’t where it should be. He was even called out by head coach Sheldon Keefe as the top line wasn’t where it needed to be.
For the past year or so, Marner has previously mentioned that he’s wanted to improve on his goal scoring, as he has been known to be a shooting threat in the past. He’s been trying to get into that mindset and now, the patience has paid off.
“I know I can score,” Marner said according to TSN’s Mark Masters. “I got to make sure I get that mindset in my head and that’s what I got to start bringing out more.”
Marner has definitely regained the confidence not only in his play, but with his goal scoring. When he has a high level of energy, and determination, that’s when he’s at his best. It was also about finding that balance of not trying to do too much and learning to be greedy when he has the chance.
Too many times Marner has passed up a prime scoring chance in order to make that extra pass or take an extra second to evaluate his options. Now, he’s reacting and going with his instincts, shooting when he’s supposed to and being more aggressive in driving to the middle of the ice. The game has become fun for him again. He isn’t overthinking every situation that he’s in and when he sees his opportunity, he’s now going to take it.
A Goal Scoring Threat in All Situations
At the beginning of the season, the Maple Leafs made adjustments to the power play, as it was an area of needed improvement after it got cold in the second half of 2020-21. They put Marner in the bumper spot to try and open himself up for a shot, like Brayden Point. While it would’ve been great, but he still had that pass first mentality and it didn’t quite work out as he’s still on the perimeter. However, he’s more aggressive and is quick with his decision making, puck movement and shot selection.
It was a few weeks ago that Marner opened himself up to score a goal against the New York Rangers, ending his power play goalless drought that spanned 100 games. He has already matched his power-play goal production from 2018-19 and closing in on the six he scored on the man advantage in 2019-20. Marner’s impact on the power play was the one thing missing that’s starting to become more prominent.
Marner is already at 14 goals, nine of which are at even strength and he’s quickly closing in on his 20 goals in 55 games from last season. Compared to his first 26 games this season, he only had six. His 21 points is still good production, but he was still lacking in the goal department. He’s now on-pace for his highest goal total in his NHL career with 35 goals, well surpassing his career-high of 26 in 2018-19 where he had 94 points. His goals per game average of 0.42 is the highest it’s been in his career and his 15.6 shooting percentage is higher than last season (12.8) and it’s well above his career average 11.7.
Marner was always a threat at even strength and on the penalty kill, pressuring the opposition to make mistakes and capitalizing twice on the kill. Now, he’s becoming even more dangerous as another shooting option on the man advantage. He’s getting better looks, emerging as a goal scorer that can do damage in all situations.
As a result of his goal scoring streak, Marner’s making the most of his chances and shooting when he has the perfect opportunity. He’s posted four or more shots in a game 11 times this season, but you’re seeing better quality chances during this streak as he has 27 shots on net. Since he’s used in all situations, he has 106 individual scoring chances at all strengths this season and 28 during this streak.
You can call it a mix of bad luck or not getting to the danger area enough early on, but he’s now generating quality opportunities and has continued to be a shooting threat. It’s safe to say, Marner’s confidence is at an all-time high when it comes to his shot.
Breaking Down Some of Marner’s Goals
I think it would be fun to take a look at two of his goals from the streak that highlights his new found offensive impact.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Marner Hasn’t Forgotten How to Score
This is the goal that has given Marner more confidence in his goal scoring abilities as it’s the one that broke the streak. It shows his aggressive mentality to get more involved in the offense.
When the clip starts, Marner can be seen right along the wall as the puck is moved down low. As it unfolds and the puck finds it’s way to the front of the net, he remains uncovered, having ample space to work with. As soon as William Nylander gets control, Marner quickly makes a jump to get closer to the play and gets a quick shot past Igor Shesterkin.
That aggressive mindset to attack quickly was missing from his game as he’s showing that willingness to be more involved. While that clip showed his awareness to remain open for a pass, the next focuses on the underrated power and speed of his shot from far out.
After an initial shot from Nylander was sent back to the point, you instantly see Marner quickly regroup and start shifting to his off-wing. Similar to the goal against the Rangers, he’s able to open the game up and make himself open for the play to continue. As he receives a pass from Morgan Rielly, he immediately gets ready for a one-timer and as soon as the puck is in the right spot, he wires it on net to tie the game, 1-1.
Marner had great power and velocity in that shot, not even John Gibson had a chance on net. Seeing a one-timer from him, is rare as he’s primarily the setup man. This goal is reminiscent of the last time he scored a power-play goal before he went on that massive drought. He’s not known for taking one-timer’s, but maybe he should start taking more of them as he does have the power to do so.
Despite the backlash he got in the playoffs and at the start of the season, Marner appears to have turned a new leaf now that he has improved on his goal scoring. The swift playmaking combined with his confidence behind his shot has now made him more unpredictable.
Statistics from Dobber Frozen Tools, Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference.
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