In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs commentary, we’ll look back at the team’s recent run. We’ll also comment about Mitch Marner’s spectacular play. We’ll look at the way the entire team is scoring and the goalie play.
Finally, we’ll speculate about Auston Matthews’ goal scoring and where that might land him – eventually – over the course of his career.
Comment One: The New Mitch Marner.
Recently we wrote about the nine-game in thirteen-day stretch the Maple Leafs completed with their 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. As amazing as Auston Matthews was in that stretch, assaulting his umpteenth Maple Leafs’ and NHL record, he was not the team’s top scorer in those games.
That honor goes to Mitch Marner. Marner scored four goals and added 17 assists for a total of 21 points during that period. Marner remains the league’s top point-getter in 2022 with 25 goals and 44 assists (for a total of 69 points) in 39 games. That’s three more points than teammate Matthews and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames.
That pace translates to an 82-game pace of 52 goals and 145 points. Marner sits sixth in overall NHL scoring with 90 points for the season and is inching closer to the 100 point mark. If he manages 100 points, it would be the first time in Maple Leafs’ history that the team has had two 100-point scorers (assuming Matthews gets one more point) in the same season. Marner’s presently on a 13-game point-scoring streak. In those games, he scored eight goals and added 20 assists for a total of 28 points.
Marner has recently added two new dimensions to his dominant playmaking skills. The obvious addition is goal scoring. That’s an area of his game he’s talked about working on almost every offseason since he’s joined the NHL. His work and determination finally seem to be paying off.
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Marner’s been shooting more this season. This season he’s averaged 3.1 shots per game compared to 2.5 shots per game during his career previous to this season. He’s upped his shot rate even more since the New Year of 2022, jumping to 3.6 shots per game. He’s also shooting from more dangerous areas of the ice.
Marner’s been scoring goals at a 50-goal in 82-game pace for half the 2021-22 season. That’s added another dimension to the Maple Leafs’ offense. Specifically, not only is Marner scoring his own goals, but he’s also preventing opposing teams from keying on Matthews.
The second dimension Marner has added recently is physicality. In Marner’s last 20 games, he’s recorded 44 hits. That’s second on the team in hits behind Ilya Lyubushkin, who has 63 hits. In Marner’s previous 43 games this season he had a total of 23 hits. To repeat, he went from delivering 23 hits in 43 games to delivering 44 hits in 22 games. That’s almost a 300% increase in hits per game from 0.53 to 2.00.
We’ve stated before that we don’t know what has spurred Marner into upping his physical play, but we love it.
Comment Two: A Solid Team Scoring Effort
Getting back to the Maple Leafs’ nine-game in the thirteen-day stretch, although Matthews and Marner have been leading the way, they haven’t done it on their own. Three other Maple Leafs’ players have scored at more than a point-a-game pace during that time.
Morgan Rielly has four goals and eight assists (for 12 points) in those nine games. John Tavares has six goals and five assists (for 11 points). William Nylander has five goals and five assists (for 10 points) in eight games. Despite not scoring a goal in 16 games, Michael Bunting was only one point shy of a point-a-game pace by contributing eight assists in those nine games.
Comment Three: The Goaltending Has Been Good Enough
Although the Maple Leafs’ goaltending has not been great during their recent streak, it’s been good enough. Jack Campbell was 3-0-1 with a 0.891 save percentage and a 3.48 goals-against average. Erik Kallgren was 3-1-0 with a 0.878 save percentage and a 3.14 goals-against average.
Petr Mrazek posted the best numbers with a 0.925 save percentage and a 2.65 goals-against average, going 1-0 in two starts before succumbing to a season-ending injury versus the Boston Bruins.
What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs meet the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. Although the Sabres lost on Sunday to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-0, they seem to have the Maple Leafs’ number. They’ve won the last two games the teams have played.
I can’t think any bad feeling will arise about Matthews’ crosscheck that resulted in a suspension; however, I’m not certain. It was one of the few times Matthews has responded to physical play against him. He doesn’t seem to draw many penalties.
However, the talk about drawing penalties will probably have to wait for the postseason. Right now, the talk is going to stay focused on Matthews’ goal scoring. Two more goals and he’ll notch only the third 60-goal season over the past 24 seasons. In 2011-12, Steven Stamkos scored 60 right on the button. In 2007-08, Alex Ovechkin scored what seemed like an incredible 65.
There are 10 games remaining and “only” seven more goals to tie Ovechkin’s record. By the way, Matthews has 257 goals in 401 games (an average of .64 goals per game). Wayne Gretzky sits at 894 goals in 1487 games (an average of .60 goals per game).
We’re just saying.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf