In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits, I’ll look at some of the events of the team’s 6-2 win over the Seattle Kraken. I’ll also look at what these events might mean for the players who were involved in them.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are next up tomorrow night and the team would like to finally beat them this season. Congratulations to Sidney Crosby for scoring his 500th career goal last night.
Related: Maple Leafs Not Adding Big Rental On Defense, Other Options Revealed
Quick Hot One: Jason Spezza Has Come Back to Life
During the game against the Kraken, Jason Spezza had a power-play assist on Ondrej Kase’s goal. That assist gave the 38-year-old Spezza his fifth point in seven games. That might not seem like a lot of scoring; and, certainly, during his stellar NHL career, Spezza has scored more prolifically. However, these days Spezza is playing on the fourth line with some added second-unit power-play minutes.
Given that Spezza is averaging just over 11 minutes of TOI this season, he’s still adding considerable value to the team. He’s become an especially solid member of the team’s second power-play unit and has nine of his 17 points with the man advantage.
Every game Spezza seems to contribute. He’s guaranteed little in terms of his ice time and could, on any given game, play fewer than 10 minutes. However, he brings a lot to the team. He’s so versatile and productive that I’m quite sure his teammates would never underappreciate him.
Quick Hit Two: Timothy Liljegren Seems to Be Climbing Up the Depth Charts
In yesterday’s post, I noted that Travis Dermott was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. In part, that’s because Timothy Liljegren is supplanting him as a regular-pairing defenseman. Is it Liljegren’s good play and not Dermott’s poor play that has resulted in Dermott’s demotion to the bench?
Against the Kraken, Liljegren registered two assists, added a couple of blocked shots, and – once again – was a plus/minus positive. Liljegren also has five assists in his last six games and is providing great depth on the team’s third-pairing. The 22-year-old Liljegren seems to be coming into his own.
On the season, Liljegren has scored 10 points. In addition, he also brings a physical element to the team with his 31 blocks and 30 hits. He has registered a plus-9 rating during the 31 games he’s played on the season. He’s soon going to become a regular part of this team’s defensive unit.
Quick Hit Three: Where Did William Nylander’s Goal Scoring Go?
William Nylander’s scoring pace has slowed a bit; however, he did add two assists to his total against the Kraken. The 25-year-old also had five assists during his last four games. Still, on the other hand, he’s gone seven games without a goal. And that isn’t like him – at least not this season.
Nylander’s still likely to set a career record for point-scoring, but he might not smash that record. He’s now put together a 45-point season thus far with just over half of it gone. Similar to Spezza, he’s done well on the power-play, with 20 points on the season.
However, where did his goal-scoring go? Nylander has scored 31 goals in the 2019-20 season and he has 17 goals this season. Can he hit 30 again? The answer is probably not at his recent pace.
Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs 6-2 Win Over the Kraken
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February 16, 2022 at 9:07 am
Spezza got 25 pts in 58 games his first year with the Leafs and this year’s 17 in 42 games is 24.5 in 58, the same as his first year. So people think he’s doing badly on points but he’s not. Last year he did do better at 30 in 54 and, there’s a good chance he does better in this second half but, even if not, he’s done fine for his TOI and 3rd and 4th line play.
February 16, 2022 at 9:13 am
It’s not that Dermott has played poorly, just that the Leafs have better now. Let’s remember that Liljegren’s big thing was offense before he got to the AHL then him and the Leafs started teaching him defense. He concentrated so much on that one year that his offense almost disappeared! He’s now a much better and rounded player and able to bring those offensive elements more and more to the table in the NHL while he continues to play decent defense.
February 16, 2022 at 9:39 am
Games get tougher by this point in the season so it’s no surprise Nylander is getting assists and less goals as he stays more on the outside and engages less. I’ve been saying since the season began that I’ll believe Nylander has changed when he proves it for 2 solid years!
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