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The Countdown: 4 Maple Leafs who are currently struggling to find their game
By Shane Seney2 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs enter action on Tuesday with a 10-6-3 record and appear to be an inconsistent bunch leading into the quarter mark of the season. General manager Brad Treliving admitted he’s always interest in making trades to improve his hockey club, however made it loud and clear trading his way out of a losing streak is never a realistic option.
The Maple Leafs have several players who are struggling at the moment and head coach Sheldon Keefe has started to blend the lines a little and has made some changes this week leading into their matchup with the Florida Panthers. As far as who needs to get going, here are four Maple Leafs who are struggling of late:
Marner was ‘demoted’ to the second line at Monday’s practice and now will suit up alongside John Tavares and Tyler Bertuzzi as William Nylander moves up to the top unit. Marner currently has 20 points in 19 games but recently hasn’t been the same player everyone’s used to seeing on the ice.
Marner has only three assists in his last seven games and hasn’t scored since Nov.6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Maple Leafs forward had this to say about the current state of his game:
Yeah, obviously not as great as it usually it is and as I like it. Just got to make sure I’m staying patient out there and not trying to force anything and do what I do best and that’s bring high energy, bring good pace out there and when the puck gets into my hands trust my abilities to do things with it.
Marner’s at his best when he’s a threat to score and can create open space and draw defenders into him, which then leaves Auston Matthews wide open for one-timers and open looks. That hasn’t been the case at all of late and Marner’s been forcing passes, and isn’t letting the game come to him. No need to ship him overboard, it’s just a blimp in the process and #16 for the Leafs should be just fine and will likely find his game in the very near future.
Coach Keefe has noticed Marner’s game for all the wrong reasons of late and had this to say about what his expectations are from #16:
Just not executing at the level you’d expect from Mitch. At times he’s had it…but no doubt, Mitch hasn’t found his groove here yet.
The coaching staff is hopeful reuniting with Tavares and a little less pressure on the team’s second line will be the change of scenery Marner needs to once again find his game. It’s not just lighting up the score sheet that the team’s looking for, it’s a compete level throughout all 200-feet of the ice and it’s taking over in key moments, being confident with the puck and entering the 20th game of the season, coach Keefe would like to see more of this from Marner.
Domi has yet to score a goal this season and has recorded 11 assists in 19 games this season. Of late, the third line has been reasonably quiet and have seen the ice less and less these past few games.
Domi has registered two assists in his past four games and has seen less than 10 minutes of even strength ice time in three of his past four games. Coach Keefe needs to figure out exactly what the identity of his third line is and it seems like Domi down the middle makes the most sense for the group moving forward. However, being tough to play against on both side of the puck is going to be mandatory for success of the third line and Domi needs to do a better job of shutting down opponents and creating space for his linemates.
The good news is he’s above 50% on faceoffs since being moved to centre and Domi’s done a much better job moving his feet with a bigger assignment down the middle. There were times earlier this season where the coaching staff would be yelling from the bench for Domi to ‘skate’ and it seems like this has been put behind them for now.
The veteran forward was brought in to provide some more ‘piss and vinegar’ but also secondary scoring. If he’s not going to score at all this season, he better be setting up Nick Robertson for 30.
While Gregor wasn’t signed for a top-nine role and is on the Leafs to bang-and-crash on the fourth line, recently any production has been hard to come by from the former fourth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks.
Gregor has two goals in 19 games and there’s been times where his speed has sparked the Leafs in a major way and has been a nice momentum builder for the club. That hasn’t been the case lately and Gregor needs to use his wheels to create space and keep opponents on their toes.
At just two shots over the past three games and three total hits, Gregor needs to get himself more involved physically and take the puck to the net any chance he’s given. With the likes of Bobby McMann, Alex Steeves, and Kiefer Bellows waiting in the wings with the Marlies, Gregor needs to be more consistent game in and game out if he wants to solidify his name in ink the rest of this season.
Yes, to his standards, Matthews is struggling lately and perhaps some time with Nylander will be exactly what the doctor ordered. For whatever reason, lately, Marner and Matthews have been very disconnected and can’t seem to find each other on the ice.
Matthews has scored just once in his last seven games and while overall on the season the production has been ample, of late it’s been quiet out of #34. Obviously as far as Matthews goes is as far as the Maple Leafs go, so coach Keefe is smart to try something new out this week and give his team a different look.
Should you be concerned about the production out of the Maple Leafs best player? No, it hasn’t reached that point just yet, but should the struggle continue throughout the three games this week against the rival Panthers, Seattle Kraken and Boston Bruins, all at home, then yes, perhaps a little. For now, let’s wait and see how things shape up with Matthew Knies, Nylander and Matthews as the top trio and see what kind of magic they can stir up as a line.
There we have it folks, another Countdown in the books as the Leafs have a big week ahead of them. After winning four straight, Toronto has lost two games in a row and if you noticed a theme from their media availability earlier this week, the boys seem very irritated and on edge with the media. It seems like the Maple Leafs are a fragile group at the moment and this will be a big week to get themselves back on track before things become unhinged for all the wrong reasons.
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