Toronto Maple Leafs not-so-secret playoff weapon

EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 30: Jake Gardiner
EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 30: Jake Gardiner /

The Toronto Maple Leafs were able to keep the Nashville Predators off their game with a skill that will make them deadly in the playoffs.

As many hockey commentators have pointed out recently, speed in hockey is not just about foot speed. It’s the ability to read the play, jump on loose pucks, and pressure your opponents into giving the puck away.

Everybody knows the Toronto Maple Leafs are fast, but they have been able to take it to another level with a relentless cycle and ability to break out at will through the neutral zone.

In the first 40 minutes against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Leafs showed they were the quicker team. They outskated the Lightning and beat them to every loose puck.

Against the Nashville Predators, they managed to sustain that high-octane pressure for a full 60 minutes, which earned them the win.

Here are their lines and the average ice time of each player:

Zach Hyman (17:24) – Auston Matthews (18:23) – William Nylander (16:44)

Patrick Marleau (17:01) – Nazem Kadri (16:42) – Mitch Marner (16:12)

James van Riemsdyk (14:50) – Tyler Bozak (15:39) – Connor Brown (15:05)

Andreas Johnsson (11:34) – Tomas Plekanec (11:23) – Kasperi Kapanen (11:35)

As you can see, there is not a drastic difference in ice-time. Obviously, the first line is going to play more minutes than the fourth line, but the difference is not as much as expected. The reason the Maple Leafs are able to maintain their intensity is through a very balanced attack from all four lines.

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Each line is capable of turning the play around in an instant, with a quick breakout. This kind of consistent and relentless onslaught is the secret to the Leafs’ success, which should help them beat out the big, tough teams in the playoffs.

However, it’s not just the forwards who can skate and move the puck. The defence is extremely mobile and quick to jump into the play when necessary as well.

Aside from Roman Polak, the other five defencemen are capable of moving the play out by carrying the puck. In fact, Travis Dermott is one of the best skaters on the team while Kapanen is the fastest, as he’s shown several times. They all have the foot speed and hockey IQ necessary to join the rush at appropriate times.

Next: When will the Maple Leafs learn?

The playoffs are when the checking gets tighter, the games get more physical, and dump and chase hockey is the only play to make. The Maple Leafs have the luxury of having four balanced lines capable of burning their opponents. The speed will shock their opponents and make them a very annoying team to play against.