Martin Marincin

Maple Leafs defense with Jake Muzzin out one month
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Can Maple Leafs survive on defense with Muzzin out one month?

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A season of extremes continues for the Maple Leafs, as their defense must find answers with Jake Muzzin out about one month. Muzzin broke his hand blocking a shot, souring Tuesday’s otherwise sweet win against the Lightning.

Everything about the timing fits the soap opera narrative of “As the Maple Leaf turns …”

  • Toronto lost Muzzin for a month in the first game after signing him to a contract extension.
  • It’s also the first game following a trade deadline that mixed the good with the bad. On one hand, it turns out that keeping Tyson Barrie was wise, warts and all. On the other, GM Kyle Dubas’ critics will argue that he still didn’t do enough.
  • Oh yeah, the Maple Leafs follow up this potentially devastating injury with an enormous Thursday game against the Panthers in Florida.

Woof. Dubas is a different cat, so naturally he tweeted out this very Zen approach to dealing with the Muzzin news.

(If you’re like me, you’re imagining Dubas trying to meditate after being thrown under the bus by Toronto media and fans. It’s kind of fun.)

The Maple Leafs defense has been, uh, flawed for some time now. Subtract Muzzin, and put him on an injured list that already includes Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci, and you might feel very UnDude.

Let’s take a look at the tattered remains of a Maple Leafs defense that may resemble seven wild horses.

Looking at the Maple Leafs defense with Muzzin out

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston and others shared the Maple Leafs’ defense pairings from practice:

Travis DermottJustin Holl
Rasmus Sandin – Tyson Barrie
Martin MarincinTimothy Liljegren
Extra: Calle Rosen

Do you look at that group as seven wild horses, or seven broken ones? (Don’t make any glue factory jokes, please.)

Long story short, this leaves the Maple Leafs with a relatively inexperienced group.

If you want a glimpse at Toronto’s confidence level in certain players, consider how Sheldon Keefe deployed Sandin on Tuesday. Through two periods, Sandin received just 5:27 time on ice. Once it was clear Muzzin wouldn’t return, Sandin’s ice time skyrocketed to 9:34 during the third period alone.

Dicey stuff, but what’s the best approach, Zen-like, or otherwise? What’s a good mantra for the Leafs going forward?

Accepting reality of the Maple Leafs defense with Muzzin out, and considering Panthers

Despite wildly different approaches and markets, the Maple Leafs and Panthers boast notably similar strengths and weaknesses. After all, they are the only teams in the NHL who’ve scored and allowed 200+ goals so far this season.

So maybe the Maple Leafs should embrace the perception of their most prominent, healthy defenseman in Tyson Barrie, and their perceived identity as a team that needs to outscore their problems, in general?

There’s also the potential silver lining of realizing that players like Sandin and Liljegren might be further along in their respective developments than Toronto realized. Interestingly, Dubas sort of touched on this during his trade deadline presser, before Muzzin was injured.

” … We need to see how our own guys develop,” Dubas said, via Pension Plan Puppets’ transcript. “In a perfect world your own guys develop and quell your concerns you have about the roster and that people on the outside may have about them as well.”

Both Sandin and Liljegren carry pedigree as first-rounders, and have produced some offense at the AHL level. Perhaps they can bring almost as much to the table as they risk taking away with mistakes?

Obstacles, and gauntlets thrown down on top Maple Leafs

When you dig deep on the Maple Leafs’ numbers, you get a more complicated look at their hit-and-miss defense. Either way, they need better goaltending going forward — even if that leads to awkward choices.

No, the Leafs don’t make life easy for Frederik Andersen, but he needs to improve on his .906 save percentage (his -4.25 Goals Saved Above Average points to some fault on his end).

Frankly, it might be just as important that the Maple Leafs show a willingness to turn to Jack Campbell instead. Through four games, Campbell’s generated an impressive .919 save percentage, going 3-0-1.

Of course, the onus is also on their big-money forwards. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares have mostly delivered in 2019-20, but the team needs them now more than ever.

The challenge comes in balancing attacking with supporting embattled defensemen. Not hanging them out to dry for icing infractions would be a good place to start:

If patterns continue, there will only be more twists and turns for the Maple Leafs. Maybe they can end up better after facing all of these challenges, but either way, it doesn’t look easy, and might not always be pretty.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly out 8 weeks with fractured foot

Maple Leafs Rielly
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The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 8-4 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday evening ended up being a lot worse than just an ugly final score.

It also cost them their top defenseman for the next two months.

The Maple Leafs announced on Monday that Morgan Rielly is going to be sidelined for at least the next eight weeks after fracturing his foot in Sunday’s game.

He will immediately be placed on injured reserve and re-evaluated in eight weeks.

The team also announced that Rasmus Sandin, their first-round pick in 2018, has been recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

A questionable defense gets even worse

There is no way to sugarcoat this for the Maple Leafs, it is a significant loss.

They are already thin on the blue line and were probably going to need add another player before the trade deadline even when they were healthy. Now they are going to have to find a way to replace their best defenseman for two months in the middle of a playoff push. Adding to their problems is that Jake Muzzin, one of their other top defensemen, is also currently sidelined on a week-to-week basis due to a foot injury of his own.

Sandin is a fine prospect and has been having a great season in the AHL, but the Maple Leafs’ defense is in shambles right now.

Their current list of healthy defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Travis Dermott, Justin Holl, Martin Marincin, Cody Ceci, and Sandin.

That is, quite simply, not a very good NHL defense. Especially for a team that is supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender. They are going to need a huge push from Frederik Andersen in goal to mask that.

The Maple Leafs have been one of the hottest teams in the league under new coach Sheldon Keefe, but because of their slow start they still have just a two-point cushion in the playoff race.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Leafs sign Marincin to a one-year deal

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have locked up restricted free agent defenseman Martin Marincin to a one-year deal.

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, it’s a one-way contract worth $700,000.

The 23-year-old’s three-year, entry-level deal expired last week.

Marincin was acquired by the Leafs from the Oilers at the NHL Draft in exchange for Brad Ross and a 2015 fourth-round draft pick.

Marincin has appeared in 85 NHL games with the Oilers scoring one goal and 10 assists.

The 6-foot-4, 203-pound blue liner was originally a second round pick (46th overall) by the Oilers at the 2010 NHL Draft.

With Marincin signed, the lone RFA on the Leafs roster is goaltender Jonathan Bernier.

Video: Miller gets first point on Marincin’s first goal, they split puck

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Edmonton Oilers defenseman Martin Marincin and forward Andrew Miller had a night they won’t soon forget. In what would be the start of a three-goal first period rally for the Oilers, Miller set up Marincin who flung the puck top shelf to beat Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov:

The question is, which one of them gets to keep the puck as a memento? Their solution was to cut it in half:

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that,” Miller told the Edmonton Sun. “I’ve never gotten half a puck before, but I’ll take it.”

Edmonton went on to earn a 4-3 victory over Colorado. It’s been months since the Oilers even had the faintest hope of making the postseason, but the way they’ve been playing lately, they might end the season on a high note. The Oilers’ 3-1-1 run is their best stretch since they won four straight contests from Oct. 20-27. It has also likely put them out of the running for 30th place as they’re now eight points ahead of Buffalo.

Marincin scores the winner as the Oilers edge the Bruins in a 12-round shootout

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Oilers defenseman Martin Marincin scored the shootout winner as Edmonton edged the Boston Bruins 4-3 Wednesday night.

Marincin, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Wednesday, was the only player in the 12-round shootout to find the back of the net.

Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gave Edmonton a 2-0 lead in the first.

After Loui Eriksson got the Bruins on the board, Teddy Purcell restored the two-goal lead with his seventh of the season. Purcell also added an assist in the win.

Reilly Smith and David Pastrnak scored third period goals to tie it 3-3 and force overtime.

Dougie Hamilton had two assists in the loss.

Jordan Eberle had two helpers for the Oilers, who lost defenseman Jeff Petry and forward Anton Lander to injuries in the second period.

Boston has picked up just two of a possible six points on its four game road trip and are winless in five (0-3-2). The Bruins conclude the trip Friday in St. Louis.

“We’re not going to stand here and think that we’re doing OK,” said Claude Julien. “We’re underachieving right now and our game’s got to get better.

“I still feel we’ve got the group in there to make it better, so it’s up to us to take charge.”

Tuukka Rask stopped 27 shots in the loss.

Ben Scrivens made 38 saves in his first game back from a thigh injury.