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The Leafs have their own set of killers

For years there have been players who walk into games against the Leafs destined to score, but we are finally understanding how it feels to be on the other side of it.  

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The goal of the Leafs’ rebuild has been pretty clear from the start. Obviously winning the Stanley Cup in the next few years is at the forefront, but there’s also another label Mike Babcock wants for the team. No matter what happened the year before or in the offseason, management wants everyone to know that the Leafs will be in the playoffs.

That’s a pretty sweet position to be in every year. It's a lot better than having the nugget of doubt in the pit of your stomach hoping that nothing goes wrong. In the past, the only guarantees around the Leafs would be that someone on another team would reach some milestone, break a slump, or put up a lot of points that night.

I’m sure you've heard of the 'Leaf-killer' title before? These are the players who walk into a game against Toronto with at least one point already in the bank. To make it worse, some of them come when it hurts fans the most. The final minute tying goal, overtime winner, the Leaf-Killer title shows no mercy.

Players such as Wayne Simmonds, John Tavares, or Eric Staal to name a few, all have a shiny ‘Killer of Leafs’ plaque hung up somewhere. It’s a deflating feeling to have these kinds of guarantees, but with the progress of the rebuild, some trades, and a big free agent signing, it’s important to mention the killers the Leafs have for other teams.

Auston Matthews

I mean, Matthews is a killer around the whole league. However, the 20-year-old always seems to rack up a set of firsts when playing Ottawa. Does the number four ring a bell?

Matthews has a total of five goals and four assists in nine games against the Sens but also has eight points in five games against the Detroit Red Wings. That makes sense though; they’re all in the same division.

What’s interesting is that Matthews has seven points in three games against the Winnipeg Jets. You could blame it on poor goaltending on the Jets’ end, but it looks like the Matthews vs. Laine ‘rivalry’ is tipped in our favour.

Mitch Marner

The results weren‘t coming for Marner despite his improved play as of late. It took a pair of games against the Boston Bruins to change that. Marner has a total of two goals and six assists when facing them where both goals were firsts of the season. I had the pleasure of being at the Air Canada Center to see Marner’s first career was sweet.

When looking outside of the division, Marner likes to play the Washington Capitals as well as he has five points in four games against them.

James van Riemsdyk

We know that JVR likes to score. Besides the usual suspects in Boston and Ottawa, the 28-year-old as lit up the Montreal Canadiens a bit for 13 goals in 30 games. That’s a nice little detail to know ahead of Saturday’s matchup. There may also be some reverse home team bias as the New Jersey native has 19 points in 26 games against the Devils.

Nazem Kadri

Kadri has a point-per-game against two teams: the New York Islanders (16 points) and the Florida Panthers (20 points). The 2009 1st round pick mentions that he likes playing against a team’s top center and it must be an extra boost when he’s trying to shut down his buddy John Tavares. In terms of Flordia...maybe Kadri benefits from the extra sun?

Patrick Marleau

Patty Mar-Man is a well-seasoned vet. He’s spent the majority of his career in San Jose, so it makes sense that he would be a threat to those Pacific teams, but the Los Angeles Kings must hate him. Marleau has 40 goals and 48 points against them. Additionally, the 38-year-old has 31 goals and 39 assists in 109 Anaheim games, which included his 100th game-winning goal on November 1st.

This is just something to brighten your day up. With the way things are trending for the Leafs, the days of the ‘Leaf-killer’ may soon be coming to an end.