The Toronto Maple Leafs dominated the North Division all year, seizing hold of first place early in the season and not relinquishing their position all year. Although they did not make it past the first round of the NHL 2021 playoffs, the Buds had remarkable scoring depth in their balanced roster with Hall of Fame players like Thornton and Spezza on the fourth line. Nobody, however, drove scoring quite like Rocket Richard Trophy winner, Auston Matthews and his linemate, also in the top-5 in league scoring, Mitch Marner.
Let’s break down what makes these dynamic forwards so impossible to stop so you can practice these skills at home.
Changing the Angle
Auston Matthews is such a fantastic goal scorer because he lights the lamp in so many ways! Aside from having unbelievable chemistry with Marner, Matthews has become famous for is his ability to “change the angle.”
Matthews can trick goalies into thinking he’s about to shoot, and then, right before he releases the puck, he moves his stick and shoots from another angle. This last-second change disrupts the goalie’s read on the play, and the shot they get prepared to save is not the shot that pops off his stick.
Companies like HockeyShot Canada make Shooting Pads so you can practice changing the angle at home with a puck that glides the way it does on the ice. Cloak your intentions and switch up where you’re shooting from at the last second, and you too will score 0.79 goals per game.
Marner’s Passing Skills
Mitch Marner picked up a lot of assists this year playing with Matthews as his centre, but he’d shine no matter who else was there because of his vision and patience with the puck. These two skills require other more minor skills to be successful.
For example, a player needs more than a patient temperament to be “patient” with the puck — they need the skills to keep the puck on a string with their head up long enough to find an open teammate. When you practice stickhandling at home, keep your head up and don’t look at the puck.
How can you spot the open trailer if your eyes are glued to your feet?
The curl-and-drag is a fancy stickhandling move that helps players evade a stick check before shooting or dishing it off. This trick requires subtle wrist control so you can coax the puck to remain on your blade even as it swings backwards in a semi-circle.
The “saucer” pass is another formidable weapon in Marner’s arsenal. Raising the pass above a defender’s lowered stick only to have it drop smoothly on the other side is the perfect way to get a teammate the puck on a two-on-one without it being intercepted.
Develop these skills at home with hard practice over 12 months, and maybe one day you can play on the Leaf’s first line. Depending on your age, skills, and work ethic, perhaps you’ll take the spot currently occupied by Zach Hyman and score off a Marner pass or get a primary assist on an Auston Matthews goal.
You might be interested in reading, “Toronto Maple Leafs Thrill Fans at Greenwood Park Practice“.