Toronto Maple Leafs and Nylander Shut Up Critics With Decisive Victory

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 17: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks to make a check against the Ottawa Senators during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on February 17, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 17: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks to make a check against the Ottawa Senators during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on February 17, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs dominated the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night, despite playing without Zach Hyman and Freddie Andersen.

As much as I hate bringing up the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons and drawing attention to his articles, after watching the energy from William Nylander and John Tavares over the past two nights, I have no other choice.

During his piece on February 16, Simmons, ignoring both the eye-test and the advanced stats that show a dominant player, used Nylander’s low goal totals to rip in a rant that was, at best, xenophobic, and objectively untrue.

Ever since Nylander joined the NHL, he seems to be the whipping-boy in the Toronto media. I can understand the frustration from his hold-out prior to the 2018-19 season or that he sometimes looks lost defensively, but the criticism is unjust because offense and defense do not exist in a vacuum, and Nylander consistently tilts the ice heavily in the Leafs favor.

Nylander and Tavares Shut Up Critics Last Night

Can we all take a second to realize that Nylander is a 24-year-old winger who’s already had three 20-plus goal seasons, including a 2019-20 campaign where he was on pace for 37 goals and 70 points? $6.9M per season for that production is a very good deal.

Nylander may not be on-pace for another 30-goal year at the moment, but he’s still on-pace to have 24 goals and a 67-point season (in an 82-game schedule), which is way more production than you would normally get from a player on the second line and second PP unit.  What more can you ask for?

When Nylander scored last night, he did so by driving the net, unafraid to get hit and found the puck and scored. If you watch the tape, this isn’t a rare goal for him. In fact, he led the NHL in net-front goals last season, so it’s incredibly frustrating to hear a big-name columnist continue use his platform to spread falsehoods that are disproven.

https://twitter.com/NHLsv/status/1362658321480749057

Not only has Nylander been criticized but so has John Tavares. In 18 games, the captain has 16 points. He’s playing nearly two minutes less per night and is still on-pace for a 30-goal and 76-point campaign this year (in an 82-game season).

The fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs second-line has two 30-goal scorers and people are complaining blows my mind. Sure, they’re not going to get the production that Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are, but who is? Only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can match the duo that the Leafs have, and even then, only on the power-play.

This is a market that used to praise Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel on the first-line. Now that the second-line has two All-Stars, it’s somehow not good enough because they’re not producing up to the level’s of two future Hall-of-Famer’s on the first-line.

Simmons continued to dig at Tavares, saying: “In the past, he has been able to create some offence for himself — just not this season, with only one even-strength goal.”  Again, while Tavares can probably be better, the facts are that his scoring is down because of a preposterously low on-ice shooting percentage of 6.5% which is a) the lowest on the team, and b) practically guaranteed to rise. (all stats naturalstattrick.com).

Tavares’ tally last night was the definition of creating offense for himself. Prior to scoring, the captain kept the puck in zone and got it down low to Mitch Marner. From there, Marner found Tavares in the high-slot who fired a perfect wrist-shot bar-down. It was a goal-scorer’s goal in the sense that he knew exactly where the open-ice was and understood that this shot would catch Matt Murray off guard.

Next. Comparing Leafs Start to Cup Winners. dark

Look, everyone is entitled to have bad “takes.” and I’ve certainly had my share. When it comes to anything subjective, whether you have a good or a bad opinion, you’re entitled to it. The problem with Simmons’ writing on Nylander is that the things he is writing are demonstrably, objectively false.  Nylander’s numbers are excellent and we should be savvy enough hockey fans to realize that goal and point totals over a short sample do not always accurately reflect the quality of play.