Adding Mark Giordano was always going to improve the Toronto Maple Leafs, though nobody predicted it’d improve Timothy Liljegren.
Given Timothy Liljegren has been one of very few options the Toronto Maple Leafs have to drop a player back down to the AHL, it’s impressive that he now is truly staking his place as an NHL defenseman.
A lot of this is down to his pairing with the veteran defenseman, which in itself has only come about due to an injury to Rasmus Sandin.
Right now, Liljegren certainly holds his own as a bottom pairing defenseman, with recent games suggesting he is a reliable enough option to bump onto the second pair if required.
Toronto Maple Leafs Have Found A Place For Timothy Liljegren
Prior to the arrival of Mark Giordano, Liljegren was in the unenviable spot of being the seventh man looking in; a spot he and Travis Dermott seemed to trade between themselves prior to Dermott’s trade to Vancouver.
Such is the nature of the game though that an injury to Sandin and the aforementioned trade means Timothy Liljegren now finds himself all but guaranteed on the Toronto Maple Leafs team-sheet for the time being.
Of course, when Jake Muzzin and Sandin are fully recovered, there may be some challenges, but for now he’s making the most of the opportunity.
At even-strength Giordano and Liljegren have played almost 72 minutes together and in that time, although they’re an overall -1 in terms of goal differential, the Toronto Maple Leafs put up significantly more shots and chances than their opponents.
Perhaps more telling is that Liljegren is finding his game offensively too, with goals in consecutive games. He is likely feeling more comfortable to take that extra risk with a defensively astute partner alongside him.
It’s clear the Toronto Maple Leafs are seeing growth in Timothy Liljegren; he’s been consistently entrusted time shorthanded and even saw some powerplay ice-time the past few games.
By all manner of statistics, the duo is getting the job done. Together, they have a Corsi For of 57.66% and a shot count heavily leaning towards the Toronto Maple Leafs with 61.54% of Shots For whilst they’re out together.
The Expected Goals For when Gio and Liljegren are out together is 69.29% with the Leafs dominating High Danger Chances too, with 80%.
Statistics, of course, can be skewed and aligned to meet a narrative. The narrative here is that they’re a dominant pairing. However their ice-time totals skew towards them being utilized as a third-pairing.
With that said, they’re not exactly skewing heavily towards just offensive zone starts. They’ve seen more neutral zone or defensive zone starts than the offensive zone.
Maybe it’s all a little exaggerated because they are effectively the Leafs third pairing. However, that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. The results they’re achieving certainly are still remarkable.
They highlight a certain degree of depth on defense that hasn’t previously been the case for the Toronto Maple Leafs, at least not in recent times.
If the only value that Mark Giordano ends up bringing to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization is getting Liljegren out of his shell and performing at a higher standard, it’s still a big win for the team.