In Saturday’s victory over the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs top line was finally rewarded for their play with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Joe Thornton all scoring.
It seemed like it was only a matter of time before that newly formed trio got things going considering how much they dominated three games into the season. In the 32:47 of ice time Matthews, Marner and Thornton have played together at 5-on-5, they have a 74.14 CF% with 43 attempts on net and have allowed just 15.
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Simply put, the Leafs’ top line has been dominating possession and while they haven’t seen the production they would have liked, Saturday’s game should show what happens when a line remains patient. In 9:31 of ice time, the trio had a 13-3 advantage in scoring chances.
This is the line that has to be the Leafs’ identity considering the way they play impacts the rest of the team. We have seen the second or what many would call the 1B line of John Tavares, William Nylander and Jimmy Vesey make some big plays as well so you have to think that this makes the Leafs a matchup nightmare.
It’s the main reason why many picked the Leafs as the favourites to finish atop the North Division because there aren’t many teams that can match the depth the Leafs have. At the same time, in two of the three games, Toronto has seen Montreal and Ottawa take the play to them and that resulted in a regulation loss and a close game that could have ended differently in overtime.
Leafs fans were excited to see the potential the Matthews, Marner and Thornton line had offensively and it’s understandable that it was going to take time for them to develop chemistry. One thing you can’t doubt is that they are having fun together.
"“The amount of attention these two guys get it, I just gotta get open for ’em,” Thornton said after the game. “It’s been so fun with Mitchy and Matty. We have a lot of fun out there, and I think we’ll continue to keep growing as a line. Because we are having fun and we get excited before every game, I think you can tell each game we’re getting better. And that’s a real good sign. Yeah, I love playing with those two kids.”"
Of course, as the season goes on, you wonder how much this team will be able to keep things going as teams are able to gameplan. Thornton brings a more respectable offensive threat as the third option as a great playmaker and seeing him score should also warn teams that they can’t just cover Matthews and Marner.
What are your thoughts on the play of the Leafs top line three games into the season? Can they continue to dominate like they have? Let us know in the comments below.