For the past few years, Mitch Marner has been a major part of the Toronto Maple Leafs penalty kill.
Now it seems the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to try Auston Matthews on the PK as well.
In the mentality of some coaches, they try to avoid using their star players whenever playing shorthanded, with the fear that they could potentially get hurt trying to block shots. However, time and time again, it has been proven that star players can still get the job done safely and effectively, along with an added offensive boost as well.
The Toronto Maple Leafs isn’t the only team using one of their star players on the penalty kill. The one and only Connor McDavid does it for the Edmonton Oilers even though he may not even be one of the strongest players defensively on the team. But his exceptional skills and takeaway ability makes him a huge threat while playing shorthanded.
There’s also the recently retired Patrice Bergeron, who had done it successfully throughout his NHL career. Even Sidney Crosby had flourished in that role for the Pittsburgh Penguins as well.
The common trend among them is the fact that not only are they effective at defending while shorthanded, but they also provide a legitimate threat offensively. In doing so, it helps keep the opposing teams on their toes even though they are on the power play. So when implemented correctly and effectively, it actually helps a team more than it can hurt it.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Should Add Another Star Player on the Penalty Kill
With the huge exodus of players this past offseason that were a key part of the Leafs penalty kill unit last season, there is a huge void that has been left to fill. As a result, it may be the right time for the Toronto Maple Leafs to try out another superstar on the penalty kill this year. That superstar should be Auston Matthews.
It has been recently revealed that head coach Sheldon Keefe is actually considering using Matthews in the role this season.
Matthews has been among the leaders in the NHL in takeaways in the past few seasons, including 92 during his 2021-22 season in which he finished second in that category.
Not only that, together with his hockey IQ, exceptional stickwork, and the fact that he is one of the better two-way centreman in the league, he is definitely an ideal candidate for the Leafs to try and implement on their penalty kill units.
Even better is the fact that the Leafs can even keep the duo of Marner and Matthews together on one penalty kill unit, making them potentially one of the most feared groups in the entire NHL whenever teams face them on the power play.
The only negative impact it could have on the team is the fact that it would mean slightly less 5-on-5 time for Matthews, which he has shown to be a dominant force in.
However, if putting Matthews on the penalty kill effectively helps reduce the number of goals scored against them, and at the same time potentially adding some productive shorthanded goals as well, it may be more than worth it in the long run.
As they say, defence wins championships, so if Matthews can convert the team’s penalty kill into a “power kill”, then we are definitely here for it.