GRADING THE LEAFS: Who handed playoff check? Record may be very quick

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Ah, whether or not to evaluate the 2017-18 Leafs by way of the lens of a 105-point season or a seven-game playoff loss?

There was motive to reward and pan each the primary and second seasons, however because the staff’s said purpose was to construct for April and try one other step up, we’ll look solely at what transpired the previous two weeks.

From a horrible begin in Boston, to a spirited comeback and late Sport 7 letdown, right here’s who stood out, for higher or worse, on Mike Babcock’s staff:

LEAST IMPRESSIVE

1. C Auston Matthews

In a sequence the place younger gamers shone on each groups, final yr’s Calder Trophy winner and main scorer was principally held in test by Boston’s centres in open ice and Zdeno Chara down low. He wound up with two factors.

There have been sparks right here and there, together with his potent launch, sixth sense with the puck and back-checking, however the wanted breakout evening, particularly at TD Backyard, wasn’t there. It gained’t be recognized till Friday’s locker clean-out whether or not a well being situation from his 20-game common season absence had any impact, although he entered the sequence with a robust ending kick, a nine-game level streak.

2. RW William Nylander

As Matthews goes, linemate Nylander usually follows. There was some line juggling halfway by way of the sequence harking back to the ‘tightening’ the fleet winger wanted from coaches earlier in his profession and with the Marlies. He did emulate Matthews’ respectable faceoff numbers towards Boston, however one purpose in seven video games gained’t minimize it.

three. D Nikita Zaitsev

After his sturdy Sport 6, Babcock let it’s recognized he disagreed with those that thought the Russian defenceman had been a letdown. However this was a case of carrying over a insecurity from common season. Final season’s blueline shock was not the identical participant after a foot damage and viral an infection within the second half.

four. C Nazem Kadri

You actually felt for a participant who laboured so laborious and so lengthy to get himself and his staff able to contend, solely to jeopardize it with a three-game suspension. Tomas Plekanec did OK as his substitute, however Kadri joins the Annoyed 5 core Leafs who’ve been a part of three first-round eliminations.

5. D Jake Gardiner

The Leafs have lived with the Good Jake/Dangerous Jake dynamic for a very long time. Prior to now two years the place he didn’t miss a begin, they’ve gained 89 video games and he’s amassed almost 100 factors. However a crash-n’-burn in his remaining Sport 7 examination, when he was amongst these veteran counted on probably the most, will persist with him awhile.

MOST IMPRESSIVE

1. LW Mitch Marner

Boston coach Bruce Cassidy after Wednesday’s handshake line: “I simply instructed Marner, ‘You had a hell of a sequence.’ Hell of a participant. We had our arms full with him.” Led Leafs in regular-season and playoff scoring and the league in post-season takeaways. He will get knocked round and comes again for extra and challenged the playoff statute that there’s no room for creativity. And he was one of many Leafs who handled the off-ice post-season theatre round Toronto with ease.

2. LW Patrick Marleau

GM Lou Lamoriello dedicated $18.75 million in the summertime for 3 years, he exceeded the 20 targets Babcock projected and had a pair in Sport 7 that ought to’ve been a catalyst. Nonetheless no Cup as he nears 39, however loads of fuel within the tank for a run subsequent yr.

three. D Morgan Rielly

The defence might be on trial this summer time, however ask the place the present group could be with out Rielly? He would’ve been the Leafs chief in shifts within the sequence had he not wanted a Sport 7 sew job from a puck to the face.

four. LW Zach Hyman

Each time he was on, he appeared concerned in successful, a post-whistle scrap (usually with Chara), in addition to a takeaway or scoring likelihood. A staff can’t dangle round in a sequence during which it trails a lot with out a relentless checker and penalty killer. Put Connor Brown on this spot, too.

5. C Tomas Plekanec

His quiet indoctrination into Leaf Nation modified in playoffs with him filling a significant position for Kadri. Acquired particularly for a sequence towards a well-recognized division foe, the ex-Hab did the job, however doesn’t seem like a long-term Leaf.

JURY IS STILL OUT ON…

G Frederik Andersen – Franchise-record 38 wins in common season, however his third-period hiccups gave him three profession Sport 7 losses.

D Roman Polak – Ranked prime 10 in playoff blocks and hits, however does he return?

D Travis Dermott – Took awhile to get comfy in his first NHL playoff.

LW James van Riemsdyk – Leafs wanted extra power-play possibilities for him to make a distinction.

C Tyler Bozak – Nonetheless sizzling within the faceoff dots, however needed to have extra offence.

RW Kasperi Kapanen – Missed some breakaways, however made his case to maneuver up depth chart in October.

lhornby@postmedia.com



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