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The Leafs' patchwork top-4 defensemen put on a clinic in a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh


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Mike Armenti
November 26, 2022  (10:31 PM)
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After starting the season 4-4-2, the Leafs have really come alive in November, going 9-1-3 in 13 games over the month and improving to 13-5-5. What's more impressive is that they've accomplished this while playing long stretches without Matt Murray, Ilya Samsonov, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie, among others.

With the Buds' top 3 defenders currently sidelined due to injury, it has provided what Sheldon Keefe calls "big opportunities" for some of the team's other defenders. For Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin, it means being elevated into the team's top 4, playing increased minutes and taking on additional responsibility. For Mark Giordano and Justin Holl, it's meant elevating to the top of the lineup, playing enormous minutes in all situations. So, how have they faired? Shockingly, they've been great over the last handful of games, and they were excellent again on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
In terms of expected goals for percentage, Giordano, Holl, Sandin and Liljegren dominated the opposition during their minutes at 5v5, with Sandin leading the way with a 68.46% xGF%. Justin Holl was next in line with a 66.59% xGF%, followed by Giordano with a 61.39% xGF% and Liljegren with a 59.63% xGF%. What's more? None of them were on the ice for a single goal against at even strength.
It's not often where you're going to find a team who loses their top-3 defensemen and actually improves on the back end. Part of that is the systems that Sheldon Keefe and the coaching staff have implemented, so they should be acknowledged for how well they've been able to prepare their guys. However, when it comes to execution, that's on the players - and so far, they've come in and executed in the face of tremendous adversity. I cannot overstate how important that is for this team.
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26 NOVEMBRE   |   385 ANSWERS
The Leafs' patchwork top-4 defensemen put on a clinic in a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh

Which blueliner have you been most impressed with since Muzzin, Brodie and Rielly have gone down with injuries?

Giordano22257.7 %
Liljegren6817.7 %
Holl6015.6 %
Sandin359.1 %
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