Breaking down the Maple Leafs lineup changes for Game 3

The lineup blender is officially out for Sheldon Keefe and the Toronto Maple Leafs as the series shifts to Tampa Bay. Out of the lineup are Wayne Simmonds and Timothy Liljegren. In comes Jason Spezza and Justin Holl.

#Leafs lines during morning skate May 6/22
Bunting-Matthews-Marner Nylander-Tavares-Anderson*Mikheyev-Kampf-KerfootEngvall-Blackwell-SpezzaExtra: Clifford, *Filling in for Kase
Rielly-LyubushkinMuzzin-BrodieGiordano-HollSandin-Liljegren
Campbell (starter)Kallgren
— David Alter (@dalter) May 6, 2022

While the moves are polarizing given the players coming out versus the players coming into the lineup, the numbers through two games indicate this is the right decision from Toronto to shake things up, go for a different look, and try to fix some of the things that went wrong in Game 2.
Forwards
Beginning at forward, the top line of Michael Bunting, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner is the only line that remains from Game 2 to no surprise. That trio was dynamite all season long and splitting them up, especially after a strong Game 2, would be shortsighted. Keep an eye on the matchups they face going to Tampa Bay, though, as they saw much more time against Victor Hedman and Erik Cernak in Game 2. Keefe will be looking to get them as many minutes against the other two pairs as possible.
That brings us to the first big change as William Nylander and John Tavares are re-united on the second line. While splitting the two ideally meant a deeper lineup offensively, that wasn’t quite translating to results through two games of the series. Tavares had an especially quiet Game 2 at 5v5, so getting the two back together in an effort to create more offence at 5v5 makes a lot of sense.

It appears Ondrej Kase will join them on the second line, a trio that we didn’t …

Read More

Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Game #2 Recap: Maple Leafs give the Lightning a freebie

If I were Sheldon Keefe, I would definitely drop a comment that the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t have to play particularly hard to beat the Maple Leafs last night.
It’s hard not to look at this game as the Leafs beating themselves, as they have done many times in the past. The Leafs took the bait of a re-focused Lightning team who played more of a trap-style game to limit Toronto’s rush chances and let their frustration boil over into taking undisciplined penalties. They had to contend with fairly one-sided officiating, adding to the frustration en route to a 5-3 loss.
The Leafs showed signs of life late in the game, rallying to force momentum back to their side in the closing moments of the game. The Leafs coaching staff can feel confident going into Game 3 on Friday that Toronto has been the better team in five of the six periods played. The series remains extremely winnable at this point with just a little more attention to detail.
Let’s take a look at Game 2 and see where things went wrong.
The Gifs
We begin with the Leafs’ second penalty of the game, the first one that could be seen as pretty soft. Yes, Kerfoot puts his hand on Hagel, but how is th …

Read More

Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs defence for the playoffs likely to look different from game to game

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted that it’s been a bit of a debate as to what his team’s top six defencemen are for the upcoming NHL playoffs.
“It’s a daily discussion and I don’t know that we ever reach a solution,” Keefe said on Wednesday. “When we finished the meeting we kind of push it to the next day, to be honest. That’s where we’re really at.”
All season, the Maple Leafs have experimented with different pairs and combinations. They also acquired newcomers Mark Giordano and Ilya Lyubushkin, who have stepped into everyday roles with the club.
With one game to go in the regular season before the playoffs begin, it’s unlikely that the final contest will bring any clarity to the matter. In fact, the look on defence is likely to change from Game 1 to Game 2 should it not yield a desired result.
“All of our guys will have to stay ready, Keefe said. “Getting (Jake) Muzzin and (Rasmus) Sandin healthy goes a long way to that. But these will continue to be daily discussions for us. I don’t think they’re going to end once the playoffs begin.”
Sandin, who has been out of the lineup since Mar. 19 with a knee injury in not expected to play in the regular season finale this week, makin …

Read More

Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Leafs getting healthy offers optimism for the playoffs

For the most part, the updates that Sheldon Keefe provided on Tuesday regarding the health of the missing Leafs were optimistic. Jake Muzzin found his way back in the roster, Michael Bunting was deemed likely ready come playoff time, Rasmus Sandin and Ondrej Kase joined the full skate with their teammates, and even Petr Mrazek is back on the ice.
Michael Bunting skates but will not play this week for Maple Leafs, Jake Muzzin returns Tuesday against Red Wings

Tuesday night also meant seeing Muzzin, as well as others who have recently had some form of injury like Matthews, Liljegren, and Campbell all shine in the game as well as save for a sore Alexander Kerfoot from a shot block, the Leafs escaped the game relatively unharmed. I hate to say it because the hockey gods will strike this team down, but Toronto is in a good shape when it comes to being able to both ice their best lineup and also be able to adapt their lineup to what will work best against the Lightning.
Here’s a quick look at what some of those returns mean.
Michael Bunting
This seems like the most impactful, and the most obvious of how its impactful return. Not only are the Leafs getting back a player who has put up a 60+ point season, but they are also getting back the player who completes their top line and adds some agitating edge to the Leafs.
There is certainly some concern that Bunting might be rushing himself back and having the expectations of him being at the peak of his abilities might be asking too much, but with few other options working as well with Matthews and Marner, there is no doubt that as long as he’s able to play the game his way this is great news.
Ondrej Kase
In his absence, the Leafs have stumbled into another third line that works incredib …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The case for Calder: Michael Bunting

With the announcement from Sheldon Keefe before Tuesday’s game versus Detroit that Michael Bunting would not play this week, the Leafs’ top left-winger closes out his first full season in the league with a very impressive 63 points in 79 games. Is that enough to capture Toronto’s 11th Calder Trophy?
There is no shortage of worthy nominees for the rookie of the year trophy. The flashy Anaheim centre Trevor Zegras will likely be at the top of a lot of ballots, as will one, if not both of Detroit’s quality rookies, Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Just because Bunting leads the pack in scoring (he holds a 4 point lead over Zegras and a 14 point lead over Seider) that’s not a guarantee that he’s a lock to win the award, although there are a lot of precedents set in that regard.
In terms of the case against Bunting, there really isn’t one. Naysayers will point to his age and say he’s not a rookie, but both Artemi Panarin and Kirill Kaprizov have won the award in the past decade outside of the “traditional” rookie age, so that cannot be brought into the equation on any legitimate argument against.
Another popular statement among detractors is that he’s a pro …

Read More

Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

Auston Matthews scores 60th goal as Maple Leafs teammates make the case for him to win MVP

Sheldon Keefe was never concerned about Auston Matthews reaching the 60-goal mark.
The Toronto Maple Leafs coach joked that he’s a “round-up kind of guy” and was never going to call him a 58-goal scorer had his star not potted two more goals this season.
But Matthews’ got the job done anyway. He became the first Toronto Maple Leafs player to hit 60 goals in a season with a two-goal performance in a 3-0 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
”It was pretty special honestly,” Matthews said after the game. “Just the reception from my teammates, the crowd, I mean, everything. It just kind of sends chills down your bones.”
Heading into the contest, Matthews had been on a season-high five-game goalless drought. In the middle of that span, the forward missed three games with an undisclosed injury. Yet he still became the first player the first American-born player to reach the 60-goal mark and the first player since Steven Stamkos did it with the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2011-12 season.
And he did it in just 73 games.
“Just really happy for him,” Keefe said of Matthews. “ To see him at the top of his game and reach these milestones. It’s outstanding. I’m really happy for him, you can tell he was re …

Read More

Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Bluelines: Going Matthews-less against Philadelphia

With Sheldon Keefe announcing that Matthews won’t be playing tonight the 60 goal watch remains on hold for the time being. It also seems to be pushing the 65 goal mark into unattainable territory, but hey, it’s supposed to be about what best gives the Leafs the chance to win playoff games. As for tonight, going Auston-less certainly reduces the Leafs chances at winning, but not enough that they aren’t still heavy favourites.
Maple Leafs to win at -470
I don’t want to say bet on the Flyers, but at +345 and the Leafs without Matthews, not to mention how Toronto has phoned it in lately against draft lottery bound teams, it is enticing to chase the bigger payout.
The other “big four” players stepping up
With Matthews out the focus shifts to Marner, Nylander, and Tavares. Goal scoring is going to fall on them, and rather than pegging one of them to score twice, why not bet on a combination of the three of them getting on the scoreboard.
Marner and Nylander +450
Marner and Tavares +450
Nylander and Tavares +550
I’m going to chase that Nylander and Tavares combo tonight.
JVR with the former Leaf curse at +335
James van Riemsdyk burning the Leafs is certainly something we’ve come to expect to happen, and while a goal pays at +335, going the safer route and expecting a point out of JVR pays decent at +1 …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Sheldon Keefe committed to finding what works for Maple Leafs defence

11 games remaining means 11 games for Sheldon Keefe and the Maple Leafs to tinker with their defence pairings before the playoffs begin.
Once Jake Muzzin returned to Toronto’s lineup, it became inevitable that a player deserving of a lineup spot would be scratched. First, it was Ilya Lyubushkin on Tuesday vs. Florida, and then it was Timothy Liljegren on Thursday against Dallas.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” said Keefe on figuring out the defence pairings as the clock ticks down on the season. “We try to be mindful of what the schedule and the opponents are going to bring and how that might factor in. But generally speaking, no matter who’s in of our seven, we think we have three pairs that we don’t hesitate to put in any real situation.”
Looking at Toronto’s defence pairings on Thursday night, the most interesting is Mark Giordano paired up with Justin Holl. Liljegren had been with Giordano for most of the games since the 38-year-old joined the team from Seattle, and they looked really good.
And in Thursday night’s game against Dallas, it didn’t seem like the two of Holl and Giordano meshed well together.
But like Keefe said — thes …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Petr Mrazek to start in goal for Maple Leafs against Buffalo Sabres on Sunday

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has elected to give Petr Mrazek another chance.
The veteran goaltender will start in goal when the Maple Leafs visit the Buffalo Sabres in the 2022 NHL Heritage Classic on Sunday.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on there that make it obvious for us to give Petr another chance to go back in,” Keefe said of the decision.
The topic of starting goaltender for the outdoor game was seemingly moot on Thursday morning when the Maple Leafs announced that a rib injury would keep goaltender Jack Campbell out of the lineup for at least two weeks.
However, Mrazek struggled in his first start as “the guy” in net against the Arizona Coyotes. He allowed four goals on 12 shots before Keefe pulled the chute and forced callup backup Erik Kallgren into his NHL debut.
Down 4-1 in the second period at the time of Mrazek’s pull, the Leafs came back and forced overtime before falling to the Arizona Coyotes 5-4.
Kallgren was lauded by Keefe for his calm and poise at the net. He made 10 saves on 11 shots and helped pull Mrazek out of a losing situation.
“Kallgren showed us, very well, that he …

Read More

Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

The Maple Leafs still unsure of what comes next for Jake Muzzin

Yesterday Sheldon Keefe provided a bit of a non-update on Jake Muzzin, which certainly fits with the uncertainty of the Leafs surrounding the trade deadline. Will Muzzin be returning? Will he be returning in a month? After the playoffs? Will the Leafs have his LTIR salary cap space to work with? No answers are forthcoming and it seems likely that there will be a lack of clarity right up until the trade deadline.

Sheldon Keefe didn’t have much of an update on Jake Muzzin, who spent approx. 40 getting worked hard conditioning-wise by #Leafs skills development coach Denver Manderson. pic.twitter.com/TRyLjXUvvb
— David Alter (@dalter) March 10, 2022

From Keefe:
“I don’t think the nature of his injury is something you can put a timeline on. It’s just really how he feels. The fact that he continues to skate and workout everyday, we’re really encouraged by. But in terms of time, that will be up to him and the medical team.”
So that’s not exactly concrete and if you take the Leafs at Dubas’ word, the Leafs will be functioning off the $2M of cap space they can muster through demotions to the Marlies rather than tapping into the $5.6M of relief the Leafs would receive through keeping Muzzin on the LTIR. When you look at the Leafs’ needs, and the growing pressure to make a goaltender part of those needs there is understandably some frustration about taking the honest approach of bringing Muzzin back when he’s ready.
Related: The Jake Muzzin Situation
So the LTIR approach with Muzzin would certainly be the easiest to understand approach for how the Leafs would maneuver any excess spending between the trade deadline and the end of the season. That ignores …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation