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Mitch Marner Has Become an Elite Goal Scorer

With two goals versus the Carolina Hurricanes, Mitch Marner is in the midst of an NHL-best eight-game goal streak with no signs of slowing down.
Mitch Marner

To dispel a prominent rumor circling through Twitter as of late, Mitch Marner does not run the Toronto Maple Leafs' Tik Tok account. 

Seriously. He doesn't. Stop asking him. 

"I'm not a Tik Tok guy. I don't like Tik Tok at all, actually," laughed Marner following the Leafs' optional skate on Monday morning. 

"I try to stay off it as much as I can so I can focus on myself, and my family, and the things I can control"

One of those things that Marner has seemingly decided to focus on lately with all the free time his Tik Tok fast has opened up is transforming into the hottest goal-scorer in the NHL. 

Marner has been on an unprecedented tear since emerging from the league's COVID-19 protocols on Jan. 15, racking up a ridiculous 10 goals and 19 points in just eight games, including a two-goal performance on Monday to help the Maple Leafs knock off the juggernaut Carolina Hurricanes in overtime. 

The guy cannot stop putting the puck in the net. Marner's 15th and 16th tallies of the year gave him an eight-game goal streak that stands as the NHL's longest this season. And if you were to ask fans which Leaf would've most likely earned that honour heading into this year, Marner would be pretty far down the list. 

But the player who drew (well-founded) criticism over his career for a supposed reluctance to adopt a shooter's mentality is now firing as many pucks as he possibly can at the opposing goal. 

And the best part? Most are going in. 

"Not overthinking the shot, I think, is such a big thing for goal scorers," said coach Sheldon Keefe on Monday, when asked about his star winger's hot streak. 

"I think for the guys that score with great regularity, they just have a knack for the net...and your accuracy is great but it's not always because you're looking for the perfect shot. They just have a pretty good sense of when the puck arrives, and what angle it arrives, where the goaltender is going to be, where the holes are going to be and they get it there as quickly as they can." 

Marner hasn't really added any noticeable oomph to his shot this season. Perhaps the velocity has increased a tad, but he's not riding this heater through sheer force. What Marner has done instead is develop the knack that Keefe is talking about, transforming himself from the perimeter-hugging playmaker of years' past into a volume shooter with an eye for the slot. 

The two goals Marner scored versus Carolina came from right inside Frederik Andersen's crease, the first being a quick snapshot on a breakaway to tie the game, and the second having Marner bang home a loose puck during a net-front scramble to win it.  

Nothing listed above is sniper's M.O. It's a goal-scorer's. And that's all Marner needs to be. 

"I have a lot of great people in my corner that I talk to that help me clear my mind," said Marner prior to Monday's game. 

"Sometimes when I'm out there, I'm thinking too much or trying to do too much. And they just want me to be out there having fun...and so when I did get back (from the All-Star break) I wanted to turn my mindset into more of a shooter." 

"Like I've been saying for a while, I know I can score goals. It's just about believing in it, and it's obviously been coming true recently"

Keefe certainly shares that belief. 

"Of late, that's been the big thing for Mitch. He's just been letting it go," explained the Leafs' coach. 

"Guys score in different ways. Velocity and overpowering goalies is not the only way to score goals. And Mitch has found that groove nicely here." 

At the halfway point of the season, Marner's current pace has him well on his way to reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. That's an impressive accomplishment for any player But to say it about one of the league's premier playmakers is truly something to behold, with Marner's newfound scoring touch opening up shooting lanes for Auston Matthews on the power play and at even-strength that were previously closed due to the assumption that Marner would always opt for the pass. 

Sure, opponents can still make that assumption. Marner will just make sure it comes at their own peril. 

It's amazing what you can accomplish when they give up Tik Tok, isn't it? 

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