‘That group can be way better’: Babcock calls out Kadri, Marleau, Komarov line

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Expectations weren’t very high for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, but they surprised many by not only making the playoffs but also pushing the Capitals in the opening round of the postseason.

This year, the Leafs won’t catch many teams off guard, so they need to make sure they’re playing good hockey if they want to make it back to the playoffs.

This week, they collected a pair of wins over their bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, but head coach Mike Babcock isn’t thrilled with the way all his forwards have been playing.

He’s had an issue with the way the line of Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, and Leo Komarov have been playing lately.

“I thought early (in camp) they were going good,” said Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “But that line’s got to be better. That group can be way better, way quicker, a lot more diligent. They’ve got to upgrade. We need Kadri to be real good for us to be effective. That group has got to find some chemistry and get going.”

Having Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner doesn’t hurt, but Kadri, Marleau and Komarov will need to be key contributors if they want to take the next step.

Kadri had an incredible season in 2016-17, as he scored a career-high 32 goals and 61 points in 82 contests. Komarov, like Kadri, has the ability to chip in offensively while playing with a physical edge. Both players can get under the opposition’s skin, too.

Marleau was signed early on in free agency, as he surprised many by leaving the San Jose Sharks. The veteran can skate and chip in offensively (he had 27 goals with the Sharks last season), and he’ll also be expected to be one of the key leaders on the team.

The Maple Leafs have two games left in their preseason. They’ll finish things off with a home-and-home series against the Red Wings tonight and tomorrow.

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