Why Mitch Marner is playing the best hockey of his life: ‘You start to believe

DALLAS – Whether or not, a history of eye-popping at Toronto Maple Leafs training camp was established whenever Mitchell Marner announced his personal intentions for the upcoming season.

Without fail, the assistant magician will explain how he spent the summer working on his shots.

Born with a pass-first gene and blessed to skate with one of the sport’s greatest snipers, Marner regularly vowed to turn himself into a “dual threat.” Hey, guys, he can score at the NHL level too.

And he certainly can. Silky mitts cold-looking. His elite hockey mind can find holes and push rebound. But eye-to-eye, from afar, the opposing goaltenders will intelligently hedge their bets on a plate somewhere else.

In his first five seasons, Marner reached 20 goals three times. Honorable.

But Marner’s assists have always more than doubled and once tripled, his goal tally. He was an elite setup man. One of the best in the world.

So, the notion that Marner’s shots – affectionately labeled “a muffin” – would occasionally strike a chord with his loving peers – sometimes fearful of his skeptics – creates a reaction to the I-believe-it-when-I-believe .

Marner was typecast as Adam Oates; You know who Brett Hull was.

Before Tuesday night in Florida – when Marner crossed the 30-goal mark for the first time, his shooting percentage increased to a career-best 16.7 – he also doubted that his dual threat theory would be revealed.

“I think I always knew I had it in me. I didn’t really believe it, I believed it, “said Marner, when the cameras weren’t moving. “And when it starts to enter, you start believing a lot more. You start believing a lot more and you get a chance (to shoot).

“From that point on, it forces the goalkeeper to play more honestly with you. It gives you other options and the opportunity for other boys to pass and score. “

His shot assisted on his pass and, in contrast, Marner’s eye-popping assist did not lap the total (57) and his goal (31). For the first campaign of his career, he averaged more than three shots per night.

It would be hard to predict such a script flip after the catastrophic playoffs of 2021, when the No. 16K scapegoat was drawn in the collapse of Montreal. Or following a nightmare October, at which point Marner collected a goal and two assists.

Fingers crossed, Marner seems to have defeated his suspicions and monsters.

At least he’s alive right now.

And right now?

“She is on fire. He’s a magician with Pak, “said teammate Wayne Symonds. “He has eyes on the side of his head, on the back of his head. I don’t even know how he does it. She’s amazing to us. “

Marner is running a seven-game multipoint streak in an 11-game point streak where he has collected 26 points.

Since returning from a fight (i.e., a 10-day video game) with Covid on January 15, Marner has scored 67 points in 35 games. These are Xbox numbers that do not match a sample size similar to a maple leaf.

“Ever since Michi returned,” said captain John Tavares, “he’s been on fire all over the game. You can only see the increase in confidence. He has twisted shooting and touching around the net. We know about his playmaking ability and how it can affect the game in different ways. With and without Pak, he continues to get better.

“He’s really embracing it and wants to push his game and find another gear and be more effective.”

Marner is fourth in the league (1.44) in points per game, second (four) in shorthand goals, seventh in assists and seventh in even-strength points (60). He is a key element of the NHL’s seventh-best penalty kill and best power-play unit, as well as revising the NHL’s hottest line.

We will say this: Mitch Marner is playing the best hockey of his life.

Do you agree, Mitch Marner?

“Of course off, yes,” Marner replies. “I mean, the overall 200-foot (game) looks very good. And Penalty-Kill, Power-Play, Special-Team-Wise, looks great there. Movies’. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people. “

Of late, Marner’s mojo is being overshadowed by his ever-running companion. Austin rewrites Matthews Leafs goal-scoring history and in the process finds hardware for Rocket Richard, Hart and Ted Lindsay.

The fact that Marner is accustomed to answering questions about his centerman does not mean that he should be seen as Robin to Matthews’ Batman, Vinnie to his Treach, Lance Mountain to his Tony Hawk.

Classification is not so serious. Each one improves the other.

“His shot went too far,” Mathews said. “It’s something he’s doing quite a bit. অবশ্যই It certainly makes it a little harder to defend. “

Hard enough that other leaves are not taking it normally.

“We were at dinner (Friday) night, the two of us, and just talking about that line,” said goalkeeper Jack Campbell, shaking his head. “It simply came to our notice then.

“I can’t say enough about those guys and their production, but more importantly their attitude every day and what they bring to the team.”

Marner brings one thing that Matthews doesn’t do: Penalty Killing.

On Tuesday, he became the fastest player in league history to score a short goal and a consecutive power-play goal; His 37-second brilliance snatched a record from Mario Lemieux.

“That short goal was incredible,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe was surprised. “Just a big time game.”

Kiev says Marner has established such a high level of play, it’s hard to determine if he’s at the top.

“But offensively, especially goal scoring and the connection he has made here with both Austin and Buntes (Michael Bunting), you feel like it has definitely gone to another level,” Keefe said. “He’s got a lot more confidence aggressively and the line has become even more dangerous because of the threat of scoring goals for him.”

TJ Brody argues that Marner deserves more credit for his defensive play. And Marner’s Plus-20 this season (and the last four seasons Plus-69) will prove it. He averages one steal per game and sets a career high among hits (54).

Kiev takes it one step further and says his most trusted winger cell should be in the debate. (Marner finished 10th in the 2020-21 polls.)

“One of the top penalty-killing units has a top penalty killer. Plays hard minutes. He’s at the top of the list of guys who are defending the lead when you’re defending all of these things, and we’ve had to rely on him a lot in that situation this season, ”Keefe said.

“He’s a top defensive or, of course, top two-way forward. And the defensive responsibilities he has are at the top of the list for us. When we’re in this situation, he’s on board. “

Easy choice.

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