One thing Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans know is that head coach Sheldon Keefe appreciates his new defenseman Mark Giordano. Apparently, all it took was a single game. Furthermore, reading between the lines, coach Keefe’s post-game comments gave us all an insight into what keeps him awake at night. That would be when his team displays a lack of control with the puck.
In Keefe’s postgame comments, he noted that, as a coach, he calmed down when Giordano had the puck. His exact words were: “My comfort level was high when he was out there. The puck got on his stick and things seem to settle down.”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 22, 2022
Keefe also sounds as if he appreciates Giordano’s veteran presence on the blue line. Keefe assessed the defenseman by saying, “You can just tell that he is a veteran. He knows how to play. Despite coming into new teammmanates, a new city, and a new system, he is just confident, moving pucks, defending, and getting in people’s way. I really liked his play tonight.”
Giordano’s First Game with the Maple Leafs Was a Hit
In only his first game with his new team, Giordano was partnered with Timothy Liljegren on the team’s third pairing. It was a solid pairing; really, as were the other pairings on the Maple Leafs’ defense. In fact, Giordano was only one player in what was a solid defense against the New Jersey Devils.
The defensive pairings during Giordano’s first Maple Leafs’ game were Morgan Rielly and Ilya Lyubushkin, Justin Holl and T.J. Brodie, and (as noted) Giordano and Liljegren. Every pairing was solid versus the Devils. According to the On-Ice stats, not a single defenseman registered a negative plus/minus during the game.
The only glaring mistake the defense made was when Brodie was overly aggressive at the Maple Leafs’ blue line on the second New Jersey goal. As a result, Holl was left alone to try to break up a two-on-one. He didn’t.
For His First Game With a New Team, Giordano Was Rock Solid
As long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith noted to me, for a defenseman coming into a new situation, on a new team, with new systems, and playing with a new rookie partner, Giordano looked practically flawless. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time and made sound plays with and without the puck. If he were nervous during the game at all, it didn’t show.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 20, 2022
Whether by coincidence or not, his defensive partner Liljegren had a strong game. Giordano finished the game with 18:35 of ice time, down almost a full three minutes from his average of 21:26 this season.
Now’s the Big Question: How High Will Giordano Rise in the Defensive Pecking Order?
It will be interesting to see if Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe was just allowing Giordano to get his feet wet. Or, does coach Keefe have plans (or will he make plans) to increase Giordano’s usage as he grows more comfortable with the team. Or, is his plan is to attempt to get the most out of the 38-year-old Giordano by limiting his ice time.
It’s an interesting dilemma, but a good one for the Maple Leafs to have.
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