Jake Muzzin shows veteran leadership, defends the play of Leafs rookie defenseman

Published January 17, 2022 at 2:38 PM
BY MIKE ARMENTI
With Maple Leafs defenseman currently out of the lineup and in COVID protocol, rookie defender Timothy Liljegren found his way back into the lineup against the St. Louis Blues on the weekend, skating on the team's second pair with veteran Jake Muzzin.

Liljegren faired pretty well in the contest, making some big defensive plays, some smart decisions with the puck and even finding the back of the net with an absolute rocket during the second period for a go-ahead goal that put his team up 4-3.


The 22-year-old finished the game with over 19 minutes of ice time and even in terms of +/-, though he was on the ice for two goals against in the game.


When asked about Liljegren's play on Saturday, the veteran Muzzin wanted to make one thing clear about Liljegren's performance in that game. He felt as though Liljegren played well, and in a pure veteran leadership move, Muzzin took complete ownership, putting the opposition's goals on himself.

"I wasn't very good either. I gotta be better for him for sure. Especially an older guy trying to help out a younger guy. He was fine, most of it was on me. But I'm very happy for him to get his first one and hopefully many more to come," Muzzin said following Leafs practice on Monday.

Liljegren has been a bit of a revelation for the Buds on defense this season, playing up and down the lineup when called upon and not looking out of place in doing so, regardless of what he's been asked to take on. In fact, Liljegren has been one of the more noticeable defenders this season when he's drawn in, and for none of the wrong reasons.

There are ups and downs for every young defenseman, but for the most part, it appears as though the Leafs have done well with their idea to slow-cook the Swede in the AHL for 4 seasons before bringing him up. Hopefully he and Muzzin can continue to build chemistry and improve as a pair, because there's nothing wrong with having 7 or 8 NHL defenders, especially come playoff time.

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