Toronto Maple Leafs Special Teams Has Been Horrendous of Late!

March 19, 2024

In the realm of playoff-bound NHL teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves grappling with a glaring issue – their penalty kill ranks amongst the second worst. This fact alone raises eyebrows and underscores a significant area of concern for the team and its supporters.

While it's understandable to attribute part of the penalty kill struggles to the absence of key players like Mitch Marner, sidelined with a high ankle sprain, it's essential to recognize that this problem predates Marner's injury. The underlying issues have persisted throughout the season, indicating deeper-rooted challenges within the team's defensive strategies.

Examining the power play, it's evident that Marner's absence has had a palpable impact. As a linchpin in orchestrating offensive plays and facilitating scoring opportunities, Marner's skill set is sorely missed during power play situations. The team's one for 24 conversion rate on power plays is far from satisfactory, highlighting the urgency for improvement.

Reflecting on past performances, there's a stark contrast between the Maple Leafs' power play prowess earlier in the season and their current struggles. Despite boasting the best power play in the league at one point, the team has faltered in recent months, necessitating a reevaluation of their tactics and approach.

With Marner sidelined, the team faces the challenge of recalibrating their power play strategies to compensate for his absence. While Auston Matthews remains a focal point, there's a pressing need to develop alternative plans and diversify offensive options. The absence of a clear Plan B has left many questioning the team's adaptability and resilience in adverse situations.

One notable decision by coach Keith involved deploying two defensemen on the top power play unit against Carolina, a move that raised eyebrows among fans and analysts alike. The utilization of Morgan Rielly in an unconventional role further underscored the team's struggle to find effective replacements for Marner's playmaking abilities.

In light of these challenges, the question arises – who can step up to fill Marner's shoes on the power play? Max Domi emerges as a potential candidate to provide a semblance of Marner's creative spark and offensive instincts. However, finding the right balance and cohesion among the players remains a work in progress for the Maple Leafs coaching staff.

In conclusion, the Toronto Maple Leafs' penalty kill woes and power play struggles represent significant obstacles as the team navigates the remainder of the season. Addressing these issues will require a collective effort, strategic adjustments, and perhaps a reevaluation of the team's overall approach to special teams play. With playoffs looming on the horizon, the Maple Leafs must swiftly address these deficiencies to bolster their chances of postseason success.