The last two games have been a struggle offensively for the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander decided to end the slump with two big goals against the Calgary Flames.
No player on the Leafs needed a goal more than Nylander considering how the past week has gone for him. Now the real question is whether he will silence his doubters or provide them with more fuel?
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Seeing Nylander drive to the net on his overtime winner caught many off guard and it also brought out some frustration as many wondered why he can’t play with this type of effort more consistently. This was something Sheldon Keefe spoke about after the game as he tried to talk about the narrative around Nylander.
"“Part of it, perhaps, is being misunderstood, but part of it is just he’s still got to grow as a player,” Keefe explained to reporters.“Why is he misunderstood? I think Willy has to own some of that. He’s got to find more consistency in his game. He and I have talked a lot about those kind of things. He’s got to be engaged and good without the puck.”"
What Keefe is saying isn’t anything new as this has been the main criticism with Nylander’s game. When he isn’t scoring, many get frustrated seeing Nylander skate around effortlessly not contributing in other areas.
This is why there has been the call for the Leafs to trade Nylander because when the games get tougher, there is the concern that the team won’t be able to count on him to produce. If his two-goal performance shows anything, it’s that Nylander is capable but only if he’s willing to put forth the effort.
Toronto Maple Leafs: William Nylander continues to be a misunderstood player
After the game, you could see the joy on the face of the Leafs players as they celebrated Nylander’s goal but it was the comments from Zach Hyman about his teammate that spoke volumes.
While players will say that they don’t follow everything that is said or written about them, it’s hard to escape it in Toronto especially in the age of social media. So it comes as no surprise that Hyman went out of his way to defend his teammate.
"“You don’t do the things he does away from the rink, when people don’t watch, if you don’t care and you don’t love the game,” Hyman told reporters after the game. “He works his butt off in the summertime. He’s one of the strongest guys on our team, underratedly.“But sometimes he just gets misunderstood. And I think when he’s skating and when he’s putting himself in good spots, I think you see the results. I think the guys in the locker room all have his back.“I’ve known him for a long time, and I can’t speak higher of him.”"
Nylander knows that he has been underperforming this season and that there is another gear he can reach on a more consistent basis. The real question is whether he can get there and how long can the Leafs continue to be patient with him?
He has a good starting point to turn his game around in the right direction and it’s up to him to avoid a letdown. He doesn’t have to score in every game but he can’t be seen looking disinterested when he doesn’t have the puck either.
What were your thoughts on Nylander’s big game against the Flames? Can he find a level of consistency to his game? Let us know in the comments below.