Why Matthews and Marner have the potential to dominate on the Maple Leafs’ penalty kill
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Shane Seney2 months ago
Auston Matthews has always been willing to sacrifice his body during a game and now he’s getting to put even more money where his mouth is.
The Toronto Maple Leafs superstar has been practicing killing penalties throughout training camp which is something we can all expect to see more from #34 this season. We’ve seen it done in game action recently against the Ottawa Senators and needless to say, the topic has been debated a bunch since camp opened a couple of weeks ago.
Matthews and wingman Mitch Marner have been practicing on the PK together and were used against the Sens as a pair. Something head coach Sheldon Keefe should be doing more of this season as the Leafs duo can be a serious two-way threat down-a-man.
Lots to Like Having Matthews/Marner on PK
Ask players around the league who see regular time on the power play and they’ll tell you when the other team’s best players are on the ice killing a penalty, it puts you on notice. Teams get less risky making plays around the offensive blue line as one quick turnover can turn into a shorthanded marker real quick.
Having Matthews and Marner together makes a ton of sense as both players are defensively sound and both could very well be in the top-5 discussion when it comes to who wins the Selke trophy this season as the league’s best defensive forward. Yes, they are that good.
They have the natural instincts, the quick sticks for passing lanes, the anticipation and the foot speed needed to be a solid pair. Their chemistry is off the charts and they’ll easily be able to read off one another during the kill.
Matthews led all forwards last season in shot blocks and Marner’s never been shy to give up his body. He’s been killing penalties the past five seasons in Toronto, so I really don’t understand the concern over having Matthews out there as well. Why not play your best players more? Why not play your best two players together more? To me, it makes all the sense in the world.
The Maple Leafs PK ranked 12th in the NHL last season, killing off the man advantage 81.9% of the time. The Boston Bruins led the league in kill rate last season at a 87.3% clip. This was easily the best in the league, with Carolina sitting in second at just 84.4%. Two key members of the Bruins PK? Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Need I say more?
Maple Leafs Aren’t Stacked With Options
The great debate is that the Leafs have other players who are strong penalty killers and should be seeing the ice instead of risking an injury for the stars. David Kampf is likely going to lead the first PK unit and will probably have Sam Lafferty on his wing. Both are above-average penalty killers and Lafferty has shown in the past he’s capable of using his speed to create offense while down a man. Expect much more of the same this season from Kampf and Lafferty.
Calle Jarnkrok is currently banged up but is someone who can also help out shorthanded. Same goes for expected signee Noah Gregor and even Tyler Bertuzzi, who had some experience on the PK with the Detroit Red Wings. Regardless, is that a strong enough group to leave Matthews out of the picture? Absolutely not.
High-profile players have been a part of the penalty kill across the league, it’s not like this theory is something Keefe just drew up out of the clouds. Matthews is a force among all 200-feet of the ice and it’s time to get him some more ice time and especially alongside Marner. Bergeron and Marchand made it work and now it’s time for the Maple Leafs superstar duo to do the same.
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