So I’ve been thinking. The same sentiments have been floating around since the Leafs pulled the trigger to acquire Jake Muzzin. Tell me you’ve heard this before: Muzzin is a heart and soul player who is better in all areas of the ice. He’s a hard working defenceman with a physical presence who can play on a top pair, man a powerplay, and kill penalties. Sound familiar?
We suspect (but it’s pretty clear that it’ll happen) Muzzin will play top-line minutes with Morgan Rielly. Nice. The same assumption can be made for the PK where Babcock likely finds a spot for Muzzin to take some of the pressure off Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev.
The powerplay is a different story. Nothing is happening to that ridiculously goofy top unit of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Nazem Kadri with Rielly on the point. But I wonder whether Babcock tries to find a spot for Muzzin on the second unit.
I’m not saying replace Muzzin for Jake Gardiner. In fact, I think it would be interesting to see both of them on at the same time.
The Montreal Canadiens have the second-worst powerplay in the NHL at 13.0%. In their attempt to get something going, the Habs went through a couple of moulds, one of which had Shea Weber and Jeff Petry on the ice simultaneously. The 4-1 model that’s become the gold standard in the NHL was still intact though.
Weber manned the point while Petry was along the right wall seaming shots to the net or back to the blueline for the legendary one-timer. Could the Leafs do something similar and have Muzzin taking charge while Gardiner was on the left wall replacing Kasperi Kapanen? You may think it’s crazy to take pointers from the Habs system, but it couldn’t hurt to try.
Rielly and Gardiner usually go for wrist shots and will fire off a slapper on occasion. Muzzin has the same MO here. The difference is Muzzin produces more from them.
- Rielly (16-18) - 1 goal on 45 slap shots
- Gardiner (16-18) - 5 goals on 118 slap shots
- Muzzin (16-18) - 10 goals on 151 slap shots
Maybe I’m going over the top with the optimism, but wouldn’t this be fun to have?
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