Toronto Maple Leafs: Using Marner as a Defenseman Is Brilliant

The Toronto Maple Leafs are grinding it out, they are getting results, and they are just trying to maintain until Auston Matthews recovers from his luck-based drought.

It’s hilarious to criticize what Auston Matthews is currently doing for the Toronto Maple Leafs:

8 goals, 19 points in 18 games, 57% Coris, 59% expected goals.

Those are good number for basically anyone but Matthews and his single peer, Connor McDavid.

Matthews is currently 4th in the NHL in individual shot-attempts per minute of ice time (5v5) and he is second in individual scoring chances per minute.

And despite this, the Leafs are on a 5-1-3  and getting points in eight of their last nine games.

So basically, the Toronto Maple Leafs can count on adding an MVP to a roster that is basically unbeatable anyways.

Now onto tonight’s game. (stats

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres are 7-10-0, and have a 5v5 X-Goals rating below 50%.

The Toronto Maple Leafs exist on another level, on a different plane than the Sabres do.

I remember the ancient history of last September, and many people were predicting Ottawa and Buffalo to surpass the Leafs.

To be fair, though, if you combined their current point totals, they would surpass the Leafs.  And that might not even be true next week.

I titled my pre-season preview The Sabres Still Stink, and I think I nailed that one.

It is amusing to see everyone act like the Leafs aren’t the NHL’s best team.

The Leafs will go with Matt Murray and the exact same lineup as their last game.

Nick Robertson remains a healthy scratch, and Jordie Been is once again going to get more ice time than Timothy Liljegren.  I like Keefe, so I’ll trust what he’s doing but I think it’s pretty bad.

Marner on Defense

Hockey shows very little innovation at the NHL level, so it is quite interesting and very cool to see the Toronto Maple Leafs trying out Mitch Marner on defense at 5v5.

5v5 is the most important game state, because it is the only one with repeatable results.  The best teams at 5v5, will be the best teams, regardless of special teams.

The best defense is a good offense, and the idea is to get Marner to break the puck up the ice.

Vs the Devils we saw how this can be awesome because there were breakouts that Marner authored.  But we also saw how it can be dangerous, as Marner’s actual backwards skating defense was easily exposed by (I think) Jack Hughes.

I probably should have taken better notes, but it was a very cool thing to tried out in a real game.

I have criticized Keefe for some of his roster decisions this season (i.e the current lineup) but this is a really cool idea and one we’ll hopefully see more of.