Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake McCabe preparing for a faceoff
Photo credit: Sportsnet

The Defensive Pairing That Can Change Everything for the Maple Leafs Playoff Run is Revealed

Published March 14, 2024 at 6:53 PM
BY GRAHAM MONTGOMERY

The Toronto Maple Leafs have an unusual defense core for a playoff team. Due to injuries and lack of assets to make a move at the deadline, the team is stuck with their current core. That being said, they have found ways to make it work.

Maple Leafs Unlock Defensive Pair With Unconventional Move



Leafs reporter Jonas Siegel revealed a new tactic the Leafs have used this season to create a solid defensive pair out of Jake McCabe and TJ Brodie. The following is an excerpt from his latest article on the Athletic.

It's McCabe playing the right side these days while Brodie remains on the left. What's odd about that: McCabe has played most of his NHL career on the left and Brodie has spent the bulk of his NHL career on the right. Both have been more successful this season playing on their relative off-sides."



TJ Brodie himself commented on what it has been like playing on his offside. He highlighted the fact that they have just a little extra time to make plays. Often times that is a deciding factor in NHL games.

«Obviously the neutral zone is easier,» he explained, «when you're open through the middle, the puck is protected on the (left) side so I've got an extra second, maybe, to make a play.»

The veteran defenseman has been playing particularly well lately, including a game where he lead the team in game score.


Leafs Top Defenseman Struggling With Critical Statistic For Playoffs



All of that being said, the McCabe Brodie pair is not foolproof. In fact, the Leafs have relatively bad stats with Brodie on the ice this season. The team is surrendering 2.8 expected goals against per 60 minutes with him on the ice and a whooping 12.4 high danger scoring chances against. Those numbers will not cut it in the playoffs.


Siegel noted one highly alarming statistic about Brodie that should have Leafs fans concerned. His defensive impact has dropped off from one of the best in the league last season.

Last season, Brodie ranked second among all NHL defencemen in all-around defence, according to Evolving Hockey's metrics. This season, he's tied for 119th among defenders with at least 800 minutes of action.

What does this mean for Brodie and the Leafs? For starters, the team will need to be sound defensively throughout the playoffs. However, the team could attempt to outscore their problems as well. If Samsonov gets hot at the right time and the core-four light the lamp enough, that could be all the team needs to bring a championship to Toronto.

As seen on Why the T.J. Brodie and Jake McCabe partnership could make or break Maple Leafs
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The Defensive Pairing That Can Change Everything for the Maple Leafs Playoff Run is Revealed

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