Bruins must slow Leafs' Mitch Marner before NHL playoff series slips away


Mitch Marner is a great scorer, but it was his toughness that stole the show for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the dying seconds of Game 3 on Monday night.

The 22-year-old forward blocked two David Pastrnak shots in the final seconds of the third period to secure the Leafs' 3-2 victory, giving them a 2-1 lead in their first-round 2019 Stanley Cup playoff series against the Boston Bruins.

Marner's offense has been a driving force for the Leafs in this series versus the Bruins. He scored two goals in Toronto's Game 1 win and added an assist in his team's Game 3 triumph. He's also posted 13 shots on goal through the three games. Marner now has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 10 career playoff games against Boston dating back to last season's first-round matchup.

The postseason isn't the only time Marner shines against the B's, though. He's scored 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 12 career regular-season games versus Boston. 

Toronto's top line is outplaying Boston's top line by a considerable margin. Marner and his center, John Tavares, each have three points in the series. They found the scoresheet in both of the Leafs' wins and were held scoreless in the Bruins' lone victory in Game 2.

Marner was drafted No. 4 overall in 2015 by the Leafs and has increased his scoring total in each of the last two seasons. The 2018-19 campaign was his breakout, evidenced by a team-leading 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) in 82 games to help Toronto notch back-to-back 100-point seasons for the first time in team history.

The Bruins have mostly matched up the Patrice Bergeron line, one of the best defensive trios in the league, against Marner, and the results haven't been positive for Boston. Marner is driving puck possession above 57 percent (using the Corsi-For percentage stat) during 5-on-5 play versus the Bergeron line in this series, per Natural Stat Trick. Anything over 50 percent is good, and 57 percent is quite good. Sure, the sample size is very small (three games), but it highlights a matchup that will have a profound impact on the outcome of the series.

Marner is the engine driving the Leafs, and if the Bruins don't slow him down, Toronto likely will march past Boston and into the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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