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The Maple Leafs need more from Mitch Marner

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Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The Maple Leafs make their way back to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 this week and even though they feel good about splitting the first two games in Boston, there are some growing concerns over the output of Mitch Marner.
Marner has yet to record a point through the first two playoff games and continues to have trouble finding the middle portion of the ice – his game has been stuck on the outside. There have been times when he seems to avoid or shy away from the contact trying to make a play and instead of powering through, he’s either forced a pass or flicked the puck out of the zone.
Without William Nylander in the lineup, it gave Marner a chance to be even more of a game-breaker and someone the team can rely on to carry the puck in and out of trouble. So far, that hasn’t been the case at all through two games. As you’ll see from the graphic below, Marner is among the worst Leafs to make an impact through the first two games:
Marner’s expected goals through two games this series is 0.1. That’s tied for dead last among Maple Leafs’ forwards and behind the likes of David Kampf and Ryan Reaves. Marner needs to be better and Sheldon Keefe has been trying to do whatever he can to get him going. There have been multiple times throughout the first two games where instead of playing alongside John Tavares and Matthew Knies, Marner’s been given a shift with Auston Matthews and Max Domi, or Matthews and Tyler Bertuzzi, as the coaching staff looks for a spark. So far Marner hasn’t been able to execute a thing.
Here’s an example from the first two games where Marner had the chance to get the puck along the boards and beat his defender, instead chose to go the long route and allow the Bruins defenceman into the inside, looking as though he’s shying away from getting hit to make a play. It’s the playoffs, expect to get hit every shift:
The line of Marner, Tavares and Knies isn’t working. They are generating the least amount of offence for the Maple Leafs and at this point, Keefe needs to consider his options. If William Nylander is an option for Game 3, he 100% should put him back on the second line with Tavares and Marner and load up. It will help Marner a tremendous amount and should spark some offence out of the uber-talented winger.
Marner has shown throughout the playoffs as a Maple Leaf, he’s capable of producing. Last postseason he had 14 points in 11 games, and the season before he had 8 in 7. He’s shown he can turn his game to another level, and he needs to do so in a hurry. Toronto needs him more than ever, as Nylander’s estimated return is still unknown.
The one bright spot about Marner’s game is the fact he’s talented enough to influence the game on both sides of the puck. Last season he was a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward and he can impact this series against the Bruins because of it. He leads the Maple Leafs forwards in takeaways and has yet to give the puck away in his own zone. He’s among the Leafs’ best forwards in expected goals against per 60 minutes and even though there’s been no offence, his defensive metrics haven’t all been bad. But, when he’s not producing offensively, and supposed to be among the Maple Leafs leaders, the noise is going to amplify and rightfully so.
Should Leafs fans put Marner’s face on a milk carton? No, he hasn’t been missing that long. However, if things don’t turn around for him in Game 3, they may want to get the ink ready. The Maple Leafs have no chance to go deep without him at the top of his game.

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