As most Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans have come to believe after so long disappointed, the regular season is nice but the postseason is the real deal. The Maple Leafs could finish first in the Atlantic Division season after season, but without a long playoff run it’s all for naught.
General Manager Kyle Dubas Has Built a Strong Team
Thus far, the season has been strong. The team that general manager Kyle Dubas has put together is one of the strongest teams in Maple Leafs’ history. That team includes two bonafide stars in first-line center Auston Matthews and first-line winger Mitch Marner. The two of them together have captured lightning in a bottle and are having their best seasons ever.
Auston Matthews Is Having a Season to Remember
That’s especially true for Auston Matthews, who’s getting the bulk of the headlines because of his record-breaking assault on Rick Vaive’s record for most goals in a season for a Maple Leafs’ player. Thursday’s win over the Dallas Stars was historic because Matthews scored his 55th and his 56th goal to set a new single-season record for goals. It was also the most goals in a single NHL season by any player born in the United States.
The Maple Leafs organization put together a collection of Matthews’ goals this season. See the tweet below.
Matthews, when speaking about the record, noted his honor to be considered “in the same breath as some of these guys, it’s extremely humbling.” Then Matthews said that, although the record was a “big honor,” that “we’re working towards something bigger than this. It’s a nice stepping stone, but there’s work to be done.”
Mitch Marner Has Improved His Own Game
Matthews is not alone in his quest to get the work done. His first-line partner Marner is also on his own scoring streak. His latest is now up to 12 games; and, in those games, he’s totalled eight goals and 19 assists (for 27 points). That’s an amazing 2.25 points per game on average.
Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe praised the duo, noting that “their work ethic and their drive to win, and to compete at a high level” pushes drives them to compete with each other “in a healthy way.”
Keefe added that they’re competing with other elite players in the league and they’re competing with other teams in the league, and they are leaders of our group. They’ve got all those things that are pushing them and driving them.”
The big question is “Can the duo push and drive the Maple Leafs to a long Stanley Cup run?”
Matthews and Marner Together Are Leading This Team
This season Matthews has become a different and a far better player. In fact, he’s also become one of the best defensive players in the NHL. Defenseman Mark Giordano has noted that, since he came to the team, Matthews’ 200-foot game has impressed him.
Marner has always been a strong defensive player; but, since he returned back his early-season injury, he’s started to score more than he’s ever scored before. He’s more determined to shoot more. He’s also started to lead the team.
Marner’s now up to 89 points, which is tied for sixth in the NHL. He’s done his scoring in only 62 games.
However, more key is that both these young players seem to have decided they can and will lead this team into the postseason. They are both skillful enough to do it, and they are growing more mature in their work together.
As the video above showed, Matthews is scoring from a variety of different places and in a variety of different ways. Marner, who last season was primarily an assist machine for Matthews, is also starting to score himself. Ironically, the more that Marner has scored this season the more Matthews has scored.
The Desire Is There, But Is the Ability?
As coach Keefe noted, it’s the duo’s desire to lead the team that will be a key to the team’s success during the postseason. Although the jury’s out on their success – both were negated during last season’s playoffs, they’re more mature; they’re more determined; and, they’re more skilled.
Now, can they be more successful?
The post Are Matthews and Marner Ready to Lead the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup? appeared first on NHL Trade Talk.
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