Maple Leafs: Marner’s Streak About More Than Offensive Play

For the past 19 games teammates and fans of Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Mitch Marner have been dialled into a record-tying point streak. It’s one that has topped a franchise mark set by both Darryl Sittler and Eddie Olczyk, with Marner reaching the mark thanks to a shorthanded goal on Dec. 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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While it’s been a fun time for fans of the franchise to watch the small, skilled forward, the confidence that Marner has been playing with has provided more to his game than the simple numbers that’ve been the focus of most headlines. After all, hockey isn’t just a game about offence.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

What’s made this streak so much more interesting is what Marner has done away from the puck as well. The confidence that has come with this streak has pushed Marner’s 200-foot game to the next level — something that has help the Maple Leafs go on a win streak of their own.

Related: Maple Leafs’ 3 Up, 3 Down – Robertson, Holmberg & Marner

To further the point, it’s not just a possession metric that is worth delving into. Sure, that would be impressive on its own alongside the numbers he’s put up over this streak, but it’s much more than that. Marner has done almost everything needed to help the Maple Leafs win.

Maple Leafs’ Marner Offensively Sound

Just to quickly run over what he has done offensively over this streak, Marner has nine gaols and 26 points over the 19-game streak. That includes a five-game goal streak from Nov. 25 to Dec. 3.

Only 10 of those points have come on the power play and two at shorthanded, meaning that over that span 53.8 percent of his points have come at even strength. On top of that, he’s averaging over 21 minutes of ice-time this season and has played a key role for the Maple Leafs at all strengths, one of the few players to do so for the team this season.

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We shouldn’t forget to mention his saven multi-point games during this run — a stat that has quickly pushed him back into the top 12 when it comes to points in the NHL this season. That, following a slow start offensively for the entire organization.

But as mentioned, the telling stats may not come in the form of offensive output, nor in the form of Corsi For or expected goals for. Rather, it’s been his ability to engage without the puck that has made him such a useful player — especially over this run of games.

Marner’s Defensive Play, Also Defining His Game

Along with his offensive numbers, Marner’s play in his own end and in the neutral zone have come into play when we’re talking about how impressive he’s been. As Mike Kelly from NHL Network points out, heading into the 18th game of the streak, Marner had three key defensive stats that had him among the NHL’s best of the 17-game run.

Those numbers included blocked passes, stick checks and blocked shots — a handful of numbers that most wouldn’t raise as a talking point when discussing Marner’s play overall. Yet, as Kelly points out, Marner’s been absolutely everywhere on the ice during his streak.

While the numbers aren’t entirely up to date, heading into the 18th game against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 30, Marner ranked amongst the top 10 in each of these three categories. In fact, he was 10th in blocked shots (16), seventh in stick checks (23) and second in blocked passes (81).

What’s more interesting is that these plays have taken place in all areas of the ice — including the offensive zone which have led to a number of scoring chances for his teammates. One of note being when he stole the puck off Kris Letang deep in the Pittsburgh Penguins zone and fed Pontus Holmberg out front for his second goal of the season on Nov. 26.

Marner’s Other Relevant Numbers

Consider this — the Maple Leafs have been around for 105 years. As Kyle Cushman put it, it’s easy to get frustrated with the organization, but we need to respect that talent that is playing for the team while it’s here. Marner is just that — an all-time talent — and he’s proving it right now with the 19-game streak that he’s on.

With his two-goal performance in the record-breaking game, Marner became the fourth Maple Leafs player to reach a double-digit goal total, joining John Tavares, Auston Matthews and William Nylander. He’s now on pace for another 30-goal season and is also on pace to tie his career-high 97 points set last season. A 100-point season isn’t out of reach for the 25-year-old.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As for where he sits organizationally, not only does he now hold the franchise record for consecutive games with a point, but Marner sits eighth all-time in franchise history in assists just 11 back from tying the late Tim Horton (349) and he’s 12th all-time in points just 34 back of tying Tomas Kaberle (520). Both of these marks are attainable for the young forward this season assuming he stays healthy.

As for Marner himself, he’s pretty content with what he’s been able to do with his new franchise record.

“I grew up in this city. I love being a part of this team nowadays. It’s special to me,” he said, according to Jonas Siegel. “It’s special growing up to watch this team play hockey and now to have my name in something — pretty amazing.”

Related: Maple Leafs’ Hollowell Takes Long Road to First NHL Point

It’s also worth noting that on Dec. 6, when the Maple Leafs take on the Dallas Stars, it’ll be the first time in NHL history that two players with point streaks of 18 games or more face-off against each other — in Marner and Jason Robertson.

That’ll be Marner’s next crack at extending both his 19-game point streak and his five-game goal streak.