To say people are nervous about Toronto’s powerplay going into the playoffs would be a bit of an understatement. What was supposed to be an absolute destroyer of worlds when the season began has seen the Leafs’ conversion rate sink to 8th in the league to this point at 22-percent. That’s not exactly bad, but it’s worlds behind Tampa (29%) and even the Bruins (27%) in terms of getting the job done.
With as much talent as the Leafs can stack on their first unit, it’s no surprise they still looked plenty scary on balance, and as we can see above the puck has been funnelling through the dangerous parts of the ice like you’d want it to. But the damn thing just hasn’t been going in like everyone thought it would, and finally things have been changed up. Babcock and co. have decided things have gotten stale, and made major changes this morning to spread things out over both groups, which according to Mark Masters, looks like this:
Matthews – Johnsson – Nylander
Tavares – Kadri – Marner
Labeling these as first and second might be a waste of time, but I’ll just defer to saying whichever unit has Rielly as the back is the top one.
This is an interest looking, on both counts. We don’t have footage of the setups, but going by the way these were written out, it seems Nylander to Matthews as the cross-ice option is going to be used, while Johnsson gets into the bumper slot and Hyman plays chaos maker in front. Another major strength in this setup is having major shot options on both sides, as Nylander can put way more zip on it than Marner.
Meanwhile it seems as though Tavares will set up on the left side (where Matthews was) and Marleau will slot in to the front of the net on the other unit. Kadri stays in the bumper and obviously everything will run through Marner in this scheme, especially with Rielly and him separated.
With the Leafs heading into a game with the last place Senators tomorrow night, we’ll get a look at how these new groups operate, and maybe get some new looks at even strength as well. With Sparks getting the start, it’s clear the coaching staff is cognizant of the rest factor and also perhaps looking to try a few things in these last games and see all their options before the opening series of the playoffs.