Maple Leafs Report Card – Defense / Goalie
Morgan Rielly — B-
Rielly gaining the reigns of the defensive corps now that Phaneuf is gone.
Playing top minutes on the team and competing versus top talent Rielly started off slow during the season even though he led Team North America’s backend during the World Cup of hockey just before.
Rielly gradually got better. Babcock chose to not to play Morgan on the Power play till the 2nd half of the season, letting him focus on playing 5 on 5 and on the penalty kill.
By the time the playoffs came, Rielly played very well for still a young defender.
Nikita Zaitsev — B
Zaitsev’s numbers musn’t look good at all with a low plus/minus but it was odd that some were negative at Zaitsev looking to get and then receiving a 4.5 million per year extension over 7 years (though Rielly had similar numbers and less points while still receiving no flack and some praise). Nikita was in his 1st season in the NHL playing against top lines, and he didn’t look out of place most of the time. Zaitsev looked fine on special teams as well. Look for him to get better over the next 2 seasons.
Jake Gardiner — A-
By far Gardiner’s best season the NHL, the 26 year old broke out and looked less out of place. Gardiner has always known to be a great skater who can do some great dekes and bring the puck out of the zone. This year he took a huge step, making many less mistakes in his own end and while still finding unique ways to get the puck up the ice or making great passes.
Connor Carrick — B-
Carrick had a steady season, primarily playing with Gardiner during the season. Carrick who has some upside played more of a defensive game partnering with Jake. Connor even tried being more physical laying out the odd hit here and there. He played fine but it looked like Babcock protected him more in the playoffs and he didn’t play as much.
Matt Hunwick / Roman Polak — C+
Hunwick and Polak or as most of Leafs Nation call them Hunlak were actually fine. They are a bit slow and obviously cant break out of zone as the top 3 defencemen on the team, but they play physical and for a 3rd pairing aren’t bad. They both stepped up their game for the final stretch of the season and played fairly well versus the Capitals.
Martin Marincin — D+
This was a season Marincin should have used to break out. Other then his injuries he was given opportunities to play in the top 4. But much like in the playoffs Marincin floundered in those big moments.
Frederick Andersen — B
Andersen has given the keys to the office between the pipes last off-season. He took off and ran with it this year. After rough start to the season Andersen focused much better, he was trying to do too much early on; leaving his crease to play the puck and cutting the angles too far out. Andersen’s agility allows him to not have to play too far out and playing more in his crease made his game easier and better.
To find out if these guys had a better first or second half, check out the Maple Leafs 2017 – Half Season Report Card