Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner continue to build chemistry

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Mitchell Marner
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Mitchell Marner /

In their most recent win against the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs got a breakout performance from Mitch Marner who is seeing the benefit of playing on Nazem Kadri‘s line.

He may have failed to record his first career hat-trick on Saturday night, but a five point performance was probably a good consolation prize for Mitch Marner. After all, it was not long ago that people were wondering if the 20-year old would be able to overcome his early season struggles for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It took some time, but Mike Babcock finally decided to change the lineup. Moving Marner to Nazem Kadri’s line was something many wanted to see and for good reason.

The instant chemistry between Marner and Kadri has been on full display since the move was made back at the end of January. In their eight games together both Marner and Kadri lead the Leafs in scoring with 10 points, with Marner leading the way with six goals.

It was back in December that Marner started to show flashes of the player he was last season, but found it difficult to keep it up on a consistent basis. Sometimes a player needs a shakeup and that seems to have rejuvenated Marner, Babcock pointed out postgame.

"“Tonight was different, (Marner) was better than he has been,” Babcock said to Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star. “He’s been working hard in practice, now he’s hitting it. I don’t know how many pucks he stole tonight. When you do it right, you get rewarded.”"

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For the longest time people had been asking Marner to shoot the puck more and while his first instinct is to be the setup man, he is slowly starting to take it upon himself more. In that same eight-game span, Marner leads the Leafs in shots on goal with 30 and was fourth in shooting percentage at 20 percent.

The Kadri line was the big difference in the 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators, as they overwhelmed them with their speed and tenacity. It showed in the possession numbers as Marner, Kadri and Patrick Marleau were over 80 percent for the game according to natural stat trick. It also helped that Ottawa was handling the puck like a hot potato, especially in the first period.

In addition, Marner set a new milestone with his 100th point and hopefully with the chemistry he is developing with Kadri, this will help the Leafs in their push in the Atlantic division.

Depth is something opposing coaches point out as the Leafs’ strength when matching up against them and if Kadri’s line continues to produce offensively it will make team’s rethink their defensive strategy. Instead of focusing on shutting down the top line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman, some attention will also have to be paid to Kadri, Marner and Marleau.

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If the Leafs can somehow secure home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, this would allow Babcock a better chance to match the lines as he wants.