It’s a funny thing about defensive defensemen. If you don’t see them, that’s good. But for offensive defensemen like the Toronto Maple Leafs Morgan Rielly or Rasmus Sandin, they are almost always visible on the ice. It seems they have the puck a lot more.
Over the past three games, I’ve really noticed Sandin. In fact, after tonight’s play and during all his other games, he’s seemed both smooth and confident on the ice. In addition, in Saturday night’s game he added of a bit of intelligent physicality to his game – something I believe the Maple Leafs in general have have started to show more recently by the way. That bodes well for the team.
In fact, for me Sandin has been a bit of a revelation. Now I’m left wondering where he’s been. I know I’m rushing to judgment with a small sampling of only three games, but he’s looked really good.
Sandin Has Added Confidence and a Physical Presence
Sandin is not a big player. He’s 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, but he doesn’t seem afraid to both use his body on larger players and even answer the bell if he’s called upon to do so. In Saturday’s game he did both.
In the video below, you can see the Winnipeg Jets’ Blake Wheeler bearing down on Sandin as he’s preparing to play the puck close to the boards. Wheeler, although he’s recently was put under concussion protocol, is no small player at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds.
Wheeler looked as if he had Sandin lined up so as to perpetrate a physical pounding that would smash Sandin into the boards. Instead, Sandin surprised Wheeler by jumping backwards into the oncoming Wheeler, whose propulsion kept him moving heavily and awkwardly into Sandin. Wheeler obviously got the worst of it and stayed on the ice for a time before he went to the bench.
Who’s At Fault in This Incident?
Immediately Jets’ players responded by pushing Sandin around, but to my eyes the error was Wheeler’s and Sandin’s move was self-protective – and also intelligent. But after the game two nights ago when the Maple Leafs were called a “dirty team,” that call might be perspective. The incident is captured on the video below.
Has Sandin Played Well Enough to Allow the Team to Relax?
In fact, Sandin played well last night. Clearly, he has the ability to play on this Maple Leafs’ roster. So far, the team doesn’t seem to be missing a beat with him in the lineup.
The Maple Leafs’ defense – even without Zach Bogosian, who was injured on Tuesday against Vancouver and will be out of the lineup for the rest of the regular season and part of the playoffs – looks to be the strongest it’s been in the past few seasons.
Sandin has only played three games; however, should he continue as he’s playing now, he’ll add skill and puck movement to the lineup. In a way, that’s no surprise and was part of the promise that encouraged the Maple Leafs to draft him as their first-round pick (29th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
But, the biggest surprise for me has been his physical play as demonstrated in the video above. As I suggested in the title to this post – he just needs to start by picking on someone who isn’t half a foot taller and almost 50 pounds heavier than he is.
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