If the Leafs lost against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, the reaction on twitter against Gardiner would not have been kind. He has been the best offensive defenceman on the team, but the same can’t be said defensively.
More from Toronto Maple Leafs
- Maple Leafs Rumours: Half of NHL teams interested in Ilya Mikheyev
- Toronto Maple Leafs: How to address the goaltender position
- Leafs reward Timothy Liljegren with extension after breakout season
- Maple Leafs: Jack Campbell situation becoming increasingly uncertain
- Jason Spezza retires, joins Toronto Maple Leafs front office
While not the worst on the team, Gardiner has still not been good enough. What does him in are the giveaways (which he leads the team in) in his own zone, where he is trying to force a pass or gets caught overplaying a situation.
Gardiner will probably be asked to play more with Zaitsev out for game one, but probably won’t be asked to play on the penalty kill. He needs to play the puck out of danger more by skating it out, instead of letting the opposing players pressure him into making a bad pass.
He can move the puck very well and needs to do more of that so his forwards can find time to get set up in the neutral zone. Offensively he has a strong shot and needs to get it off quicker, because he tends to hold onto the puck too much, allowing defenders to get in the blocking lanes and the goalie to take away the angle.
Gardiner played in the Leafs’ series against the Boston Bruins and had five points in five games and also played 23 minutes a night so he is capable of playing at a higher level. The question is whether he can handle what Washington will throw at him?