LEAFS NOTES: Robertson’s staggered schedule can’t stop his scoring

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The sure-fire method for Nick Robertson to have a guaranteed 41-goal season in 2024-25 seems clear. 

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Just sit him every other game through the 82 on the schedule.  

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While there’s some debate whether Robertson rates as an everyday NHL player, there’s no question of him not letting rust accumulate when he idles. With his goal Tuesday in Newark, that’s four times he has responded on the scoresheet right after being scratched. 

NHLStats doesn’t get into the minutiae of healthy scratches in its data base, but was able to determine Robertson is one of just two players this season to be so productive after a night in the press box for health reasons or otherwise. Vegas Golden Knight winger Pavel Dorofeyev is the other. 

The 22-year-old Robertson is still having his best season with 13 goals in 52 games, trying to complement his obvious scoring talents with the two-way game demanded of all regulars, especially in the playoffs. His already tenuous hold on a bottom six job at left wing will be further complicated when Calle Jarnkrok returns from a hand injury later in the month, which will prompt even more shuffling. 

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But having survived a series of serious injuries and trade rumours that might have overwhelmed a newbie, Robertson isn’t about to sulk about his lot with the Leafs. He has stated a few times he approaches every game day like he’s in the lineup.  

“When you miss a game or two, you feel a little out of rhthym,” Robertson told media Tuesday in Newark. “But I’ve done this a few times. After your first shift it feels like I’ve been playing.” 

Coach Sheldon Keefe loves the attitude. 

“I’ve told him through the season each time he’s come out it’s not because of anything he’s done (wrong). It’s a matter of he’s on a really good team with lots of depth. Just stay ready was the last message when we took him out and it’s the same mindset as we get into the playoffs. 

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“Great goal tonight gets us started (the Leafs’ first after Jersey put them on their heels). At times when you come in and out of the lineup you can over-think things, but when you really zoom out, Nick’s had a tremendous season and he’s stayed healthy, contributed, learned a lot and taken more out of this season than any other.” 


Never mind the press pointing out peccadilloes with the Leafs, the annual NHL Players Association poll could provide them bulletin board material for playoffs. 

Hardly any Toronto players were seen when results were released Wednesday morning, with 693 players responding to questions on the league’s best performers.  

Asked which forward they would want in a must-win game, Connor McDavid of the Oilers garnered almost half the vote, with Sidney Crosby second at 11.58% and the next three — Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov and Artemi Panarin — below 10%. League scoring leader Matthews has usually been mentioned in that group as a Hart Trophy candidate. 

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As for the choice of most complete player, in a season where Matthews’ defence is often recognized, neither he, nor Mitch Marner, appeared higher than 2.5%, a category led by Crosby at 38.37%, Aleksander Barkov (14.60%), Anze Kopitar (8.15%), McDavid (7.81%) and MacKinnon (6.62%). 

No Leaf was expected to get huge support in clutch goaltending and big-game defenceman, though Marner was named fifth as best playmaker. Keep in mind this poll wasn’t tied to the Ted Lindsay Award, when the union votes at season’s end for most outstanding player, an award Matthews won in 2022. 

William Nylander was hailed as runner-up for best off-ice dressing style (12.07%) behind David Pastrnak, with Matthews third. 

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Any issue with moving Matthew Knies to the fourth line on Tuesday was quickly forgotten in one of his best defensive games of the season. In taking Ryan Reaves and Connor Dewar out for a rest on the back-to-back, Keefe dropped Knies down with David Kampf at centre and the incoming Noah Gregor on a crash unit. Knies’s hustle drew a couple of penalties. 

‘I thought he was outstanding tonight,” Keefe said. “He was physically dominant, was on the puck quick. (The Devils) couldn’t handle him.” 

Keefe indicated healthy scratches and lineup changes in-game have helped the overall energy level stay up, while at the same time keeping minutes down for the busiest Leafs.

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The club had Wednesday off ahead of a return date at Scotiabank Arena Thursday with the playoff-desperate Devils. Ilya Samsonov is expected to go for a sixth straight win in net … Playing with Nylander and Pontus Holmberg leaves Robertson as the only non-Swede on the line. He joked about a crash course in learning their language as Holmberg has been slow to grasp command of English since coming over a couple of years ago … Aside from his goals, Matthews has a 12-game points streak going … Defenceman Joel Edmundson might return from his undisclosed injury Thursday. 


X: @sunhornby 

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