Maple Leafs’ 3 Stars of the Week: Marner, Matthews & Liljegren

The Maple Leafs started the week with a 4-3 come-from-behind win Monday at home against the Carolina Hurricanes before heading out on the road. So far, the road hasn’t been that good to them. They lost 5-2 against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night and then lost 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. 

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In both their road losses, the Maple Leafs outshot their opponents. Against the Flames, the totals were 48 shots for Toronto and 26 shots for Calgary. Against the Canucks, the totals were 53 shots for Toronto and 24 shots for Vancouver. That also includes firing 41 shots to 13 over the last two periods of Saturday’s game. 

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In this post, we’re going to look at the three games to judge who we believe is deserving of being named as one of the three stars of the week.  

The Week’s First Star: Mitch Marner

Although Mitch Marner saw his eight-game, goal-scoring streak come to an end and he was pointless in the last two games, we still believe he’s worthy of being named first star for the following reasons.

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

First, not only did Marner finish the Carolina game with two goals and one assist (for three points) and was a plus-3, but he scored the tying goal in the third period and the winning goal in overtime. Because it was the Maple Leafs’ only win, were it not for those two goals the team might have lost all three games.

Second, despite not scoring in game two versus the Flames, Marner led all players with 10 shots on goal during that game.

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Third, and here is an amazing statistic, Marner was on the ice for 15 shot attempts for and nine shot attempts against, as well as 10 shots for and six shots against while on the penalty kill.  That’s right, on the penalty kill.

The Week’s Second Star: Auston Matthews

This week was not one of Auston Matthews’ best weeks by any means. Maple Leafs’ fans have come to expect much more from him. However, he scored three goals in the three games and even added an assist for four points. Matthews is presently on a seven-game, point-scoring streak that’s seen him score seven goals and seven assists (for 14 points). 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the three games this week, Matthews led all Maple Leafs’ forwards in five-on-five shot attempts (65.3 percent, Scoring Chances-For (66.0 percent), and Expected Goals-For (68.7 percent). In the three games this week while Matthews was on the ice the Maple Leafs registered 65.3 percent of the shot attempts, 66.0 percent of the scoring chances, and 68.7 percent of the expected goals.  They were the highest percentages for all Maple Leafs Forwards in the three games.

The Week’s Third Star: Timothy Liljegren

Choosing this week’s third star was tough because the week was so unsuccessful. The Maple Leafs lost two of three games and, despite dominating in the analytic statistics over the three games, were outscored 12 to seven. There simply were not a lot of standout performances.  

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However, sometimes it’s not about being the best player on the team, but about being the best player at the job one’s given. Given this thinking, in our opinion, the third star was Timothy Liljegren. 

Liljegren played game number one alongside Travis Dermott. When Jake Muzzin returned from a concussion, Liljegren paired with Rasmus Sandin for the last two games. The job he was given by Sheldon Keefe was as a third-pairing defenseman. 

Timothy Liljegren Toronto Marlies
Timothy Liljegren, when he was with the Toronto Marlies (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Liljegren did that job very well. He played just over 43 minutes in those three games, totaled two assists, and was plus-2. He also had six hits and two blocked shots.

If we look at Liljegren’s analytics, at five-on-five over his three games he was first in Goals-For Percentage at 75 percent (he was on ice for three goals for and only one against). He was also first in High-Danger Chances-For at 88.9 percent (he was on the ice for eight High-Danger Chances For and only one against). He was second in Scoring Chances-For at 67.7%, second in Shots For with 78.1%, Third in Expected Goals at 70%, and fourth in Shot Attempts with 63.4%.

All in all, statistically it was a great week for the twenty-two-year-old Liljegren. 

Maple Leafs Unsung Hero: Rasmus Sandin

In our weekly three stars, we also want to recognize an unsung hero. This unsung hero is a player who might have not stood out, but who quietly played well throughout the week. This week’s unsound hero is Sandin.

Sandin played a big part in Liljegren having the week that he did. Sandin and Liljegren played a lot together in the AHL for the Toronto Marlies, and has continued that with the Maple Leafs. The comfort level the two have with each other is obvious.  

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As it was, Sandin also added a goal and an assist, delivered three hits, and blocked three shots. Analytically, his Shots-For was 61.4 percent, his Scoring Chances-For was 59.5 percent, his Shot Attempts-For was 59.3 percent, and his High-Danger Chances-For was 58.3 percent. 

What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?

This week the Maple Leafs play three more games. They finish their current three-game west-coast trip in Seattle on Monday, with a 9 PM Eastern Time start.

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The team returns home and hosts the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night, followed by a visit from the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. 

[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.]