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Can Marner drive his line without Tavares?

october 19, 2019
Troubles in Toronto as Maple Leafs captain John Tavares is out for at least two weeks after suffering a broken finger in Toronto's 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, off of a point shot from team mate Morgan Rielly.

Tavares led the Leafs in goals last year with a career high 47. He also finished second overall in points with 88, with only Mitch Marner amassing more points during the season. Tavares obviously plays an enormous role in generating offense, but his absence begs the question, will winger and line mate Mitch Marner be able to drive the line effectively without Tavares?

Marner, who recently signed a contract extension with Toronto to the tune of 6 years, $65.358 million dollars, currently leads the team in points with 3 goals and 6 assists. Marner’s ability to put points on the board hasn't been called into question, but his ability to drive the puck coast to coast and lead his line into the offensive zone without the aid of Tavares has been the subject of some skepticism. Tavares is notorious for being able to lead an offensive drive, Marner on the other hand, has posted less than average numbers through his career thus far when compared to Tavares.

Through the 18-19 season, the Marner/Tavares duo combined for 182 points, with Marner leading the team in points and captain Tavares leading the team in goals. Corey Sznajder, sports data analyst, has been manually tracking the ability of this line to carry the puck through the neutral zone and thus create offensive chances, looking at the data objectively, it clearly shows Tavares to be the dominant forward creating the most offensive chances once the puck has entered the zone. This isn't to say that Marner isn't capable of carrying the load, as he clearly has a scoring prowess and a vision on the ice that creates chances, but it simply raises the question; will the line be as effective in Tavares absence?

See Sznajder's date here;

The young superstar will be put to the test in the coming weeks, as Toronto is set to play 6 more games through the end of October, including battles with the Capitals and the Bruins. Tavares is expected back in early November, once he is cleared by Toronto's medical staff. The Maple Leafs are set to host the heavily rivaled Boston Bruins on Saturday, Oct. 19th, this will be the first look at Marner's effectiveness without the captain on his line.
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