Marner's effortless enthusiasm for the Maple Leafs attack


Mitch Marner is the type of companion that everyone is attracted to.

Like the other morning in Columbus when he was climbing the sidewalk on an electric scooter with Jake Gardiner just behind. It was a particularly unique choice of transportation for the Toronto Maple Leafs' daytime skateboard, since they were both dressed in well made suits.

"Just a fun thing we like to do," Gardiner said of the new road tradition being embraced by team members.

It may or may not have been prepared by Marner.

"I think so, probably," Gardiner said. "Probably."

The 21-year-old has been in the midst of a disproportionate amount of ice fun, too, with the Leafs tied at 17 to 8 despite losing two-thirds of last year's lead for most of the season. .

There are times when it seems almost too easy. This is the Marner effect.

"He's a guy you want to be with," said defender Travis Dermott.

"I think he's found a good pace here and he's just going to keep improving," added veteran Patrick Marleau. "This is very scary."

The third-year striker looks exactly like you would expect a super-skilled kid playing for his hometown team. There is effortless enthusiasm for everything he does. And on nights when he's at his best, like Monday's 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins, Marner is good enough to make fans forget how many hundreds they've lost to get a spot inside the Scotiabank Arena.

He attacks the offensive zone as a prey to shark hunting, maneuvering in and around defenders with little regard for what they are trying to do to stop him.

"I guess that's what you think of all the good players, is not it?" said Mike Babcock. "If you're watching [Boston], I think you think when 88 [David Pastrnak] gets the disc he's playing a different game than everyone else too. "

The Leafs manager commented that Marner occasionally seems to be back in London, where he tore the Ontario Hockey League with 302 points in 145 games in his last two seasons before graduating from the NHL.

This is a testament to how far he arrived in Toronto. He can be absolutely dominant.

You saw them in the opening goal on Monday, where they set up John Tavares for a big chance, then stopped Pastrnak's attempt and returned the puck to Dermott, who defeated Bruins goalkeeper Jaroslav Halak in the first of the season. He later found Igor Ozhiganov to make it 2-1 after entering a version of the Mohawk striker as he circled the net, leaving his body and his pass options open.

"We tried to play hard with him, but he hits the hits," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "He always comes back.Then he is resilient … You have to end him immediately and take his hands off him and be sure to detach him from the disc, or he is not finished."

Marner took on a bigger role and ran with him while Auston Matthews recovers from his left shoulder injury and William Nylander works his way through a contract impasse. Playing alongside Tavares and Zach Hyman, he has been a huge offensive rider for the Leafs and moved alongside Connor McDavid in a third-place draw in the NHL with a three-game assault against Boston.

It is notable that he is the league leader in primary assists with 24 to 25 matches played – placing him six out of Colorado leader Mikko Rantanen and eight above Matt Duchene of Ottawa.

"Great vision out there," said Marleau, who tells Marner to his closest friends on the team.

The biggest change in the third year is more patience. He went through a crisis early last year and was particularly hard on himself during a November stretch where he was held without a point for seven straight games.

"I think it's different.Now I know that if something is not going as it should be at first, second I'm not getting frustrated, I'm just getting calm and relaxing," Marner said. "When I arrive [the puck] I'm just trying to make the right move and the simple move and if I see anything else, I'm trying to make that move, obviously.

"But I think confidence only gets better game after game, when you get to know your line colleagues over and over."

The more someone associated with Leafs knows Marner, the more they like him.

He's the guy who accidentally interrupted an interview with Hyman last week singing loud behind closed doors in the back of the dressing room, and the person who starred in Knockout Karaoke with the Marleau family in San Jose.

On the ice, he's starting to realize dreams for Leafs fans who have waited a long time to see such a player on such a team.

"What's incredible is that most of us do not have the time and space. We're pounding here and pounding and chasing," Babcock said. "So the really good guys seem to have all the time in the world and that's what you're talking about. That's why they're just gliding across the lane and it seems effortless and it looks like fun and they have the drive all the time and you can not figure out why.

"They're better than everyone else."


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