Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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There are more than points to Mitch Marner’s points streak with the Maple Leafs

Mitch Marner can tie the Maple Leafs’ record of consecutive games with at least one point on Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks and join Darryl Sittler (1977-78) and Eddie Olczyk (1989-90) with runs of 18 games.

But there is more to his success than his talents on offence. Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe points to his play all over the ice: his forechecking and backchecking, his shot blocking, his defensive zone play

“Everybody knows who Mitch Marner is, they know his tendencies, but he’s such a difficult guy to handle,” Keefe said Tuesday. “He can get you so many ways, be it on the power play, the penalty kill, or at five-on-five.

“Some of the best plays he made on (the Leafs’ recent) road trip were on the forecheck, stripping a guy of the puck and making plays. Those are hard-working, competitive goals. A lot of the work is done without the puck and, when you get it, you can use the skill that you have to get the puck to guys in good spots.”

Marner has six goals and 16 assists in his 17-game streak, including goals in the last three games of a 4-0 road trip that wrapped up in Detroit on Monday. And yet it is his two-way play that veteran blueliner Mark Giordano mentioned,

“It’s just the way he’s playing, his 200-foot game,” Giordano said. “As defencemen, we notice him a lot, breaking up plays on the backcheck, and also being available to us for breakouts.”

Marner started the play that led to his goal against Detroit on the backcheck, then got the puck back from Giordano, scoring from the high slot on what would end up as the winning goal. The Leafs have picked up a lot of points during the streak, going 10-2-5 after a 4-3-0 start to the season. And Marner, known as one of the bigger jokesters in the Toronto dressing room, is among the leading voices now, according to Giordano.

Marner says he has stayed off social media while keeping things light away from the rink. He recently got a glove tattoo of his dog, Zeus, and he chats mostly about non-hockey things with friends, who also fuel his passion for the video game “Call of Duty” and fantasy football leagues.

And if he isn’t talking about his points streak, others in the organization are. Marner has managed to stay consistent while moving from a line with Auston Matthews to another with John Tavares.

“It just speaks to his ability, no matter who he’s with, or where he’s playing,” Keefe said. “It’s his ability to make plays and be a difference maker. If you go through a streak like that, you sometimes need a bounce or something like that, but recently he has been making a big-time play in key moments, so he’s full marks for the streak he’s been on.”


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