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Sports Marner draws inspiration from Ovechkin for Stanley Cup playoff push

14:56  10 april  2018
14:56  10 april  2018 Source:   thestar.com

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That wasn’t the only lesson for Marner , who enters these playoffs — which open Thursday night in Boston — as one of the driving forces of the Leafs’ offence while trying to set an example defensively. “When you see (Alex) Ovechkin run around and (hit everything in a Leafs uniform)

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Mitch Marner hasn’t been a winner in the playoffs – yet.

But the Maple Leafs’ dynamic winger, one of the NHL’s top scorers since mid-January, has learned a thing or two about winning in the post-season.

“That it doesn’t matter, no excuses … you gotta grind through anything,” Marner said Monday, referring to the fact that his career first NHL playoff run last spring was limited by a flu bug that left him dehydrated, weak and needing IV treatments on off days.

”You have to let your teammates know (by your actions) that you’re out there to help as much as possible. Playoffs are a step higher. It’s a different game in the playoffs.”

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That wasn’t the only lesson for Marner, who enters these playoffs — which open Thursday night in Boston — as one of the driving forces of the Leafs’ offence while trying to set an example defensively.

Marner said witnessing how aggressive the Washington Capitals were in the first round last April was an eye-opener. The Caps mirrored the Leafs in many ways — skill, good goaltending and scoring power — but took over the series in large part with their physical play.

“When you see (Alex) Ovechkin run around and (hit everything in a Leafs uniform) … you see a skill player like him and you think he’s going to do a certain thing, then he’s freight-training people,” Marner said as the Leafs staged their first of three practices before the Boston series.

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So, what does that mean for the winger who joined fellow young guns Auston Matthews and William Nylander in reaching the 60-point plateau for a second consecutive season, marking the only time in Leafs history that three players reached that plateau in their first two years in the NHL? Will Marner try to match the physical intensity of the Bruins? Not exactly, since that would be a dramatic departure from the style that got him this far.

His focus is on carrying his tremendous offensive season over into the playoffs. But in several games down the stretch his backchecking was a plus, and the Leafs as a whole have to be quick to strip the Bruins of the puck if they hope to limit their effectiveness and force Boston to deal with their elite speed.

“Staying down (in the defensive zone), we want to make sure we are coming back quickly and helping out our D-men,” Marner said. “That’s what we have to make sure we’re doing well. We have to make sure we’re back there as quick as possible.”

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Marner’s skating is a positive in both directions, as is his ability to break down a defence when he has the puck. Several opposing coaches, including Jon Cooper in Tampa and Ottawa’s Guy Boucher, have remarked on how elusive Marner can be if you give him even the slightest chance to get a jump.

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In the case of the Bruins, he might see a lot of their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, one of the best in the NHL when it comes to scoring and shutting down the opponent’s best unit.

“Their defence is very active, too … and they are very strong, all four lines, so you can’t focus on just one line. You have to focus on the entire team,” Marner said.

After suffering from that flu that struck right in time for the Capitals series, Marner played all 82 games for the Leafs this season. He says he’s feeling healthy, solid and confident, but there’s still much to be learned.

“I think playoffs are a different animal,” he said.

“When playoffs come, players step up. A lot of (the Bruins) have been through a long playoff run. A lot of our guys still have (last season) as their first time through the playoffs. So we have to be ready and really prepared.”

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