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Maple Leafs Pregame #24: 5 things to watch for in the Young Sheldon Pilot

The Leafs get to hit reset tonight as they face the Coyotes in Glendale. Well, not so much reset, as they get a chance to start playing their asses off for someone who isn’t committed to trying the same thing that hasn’t worked in the previous 23 games.

Initially this was going to be a lot of talk about the Leafs facing off against their former speedster winger, yes I’m talking about the much anticipated game against Michael Grabner, but a new coach means new thoughts, and all the Coyotes talk will end abruptly after I acknowledge their 13-7-2 record which doesn’t make them the league pushovers we’ve come to appreciate them as.

Lineups

For the Leafs, really who knows at this point, but here’s what we last saw…

LW C RW Forwards
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 73.4#55 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 81.6#4 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 75.2#24 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 76.74#14 FL1
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 72.9#69 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 79.2#13 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 73.3#54 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.13#9 FL2
Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 73.7#49 LW

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 71.1#140 C

Nic Petan
NIC PETAN

Rating: 72.1#77 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.29#16 FL3
Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 73.7#45 LW

Nick Shore
NICK SHORE

Rating: 70.9#143 C

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.4#119 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.36#15 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 76.2#10 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 73.5#40 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 74.85#15 DL1
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 75.0#22 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.9#79 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.47#18 DL2
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 73.4#54 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.4#19 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 74.39#2 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Christian Dvorak
CHRISTIAN DVORAK

Rating: 72.5#95 LW

Nick Schmaltz
NICK SCHMALTZ

Rating: 73.2#77 C

Conor Garland
CONOR GARLAND

Rating: 73.9#41 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 73.22#30 FL1
Clayton Keller
CLAYTON KELLER

Rating: 73.8#42 LW

Derek Stepan
DEREK STEPAN

Rating: 73.3#75 C

Vinnie Hinostroza
VINNIE HINOSTROZA

Rating: 72.8#63 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 73.29#23 FL2
Lawson Crouse
LAWSON CROUSE

Rating: 70.5#126 LW

Carl Soderberg
CARL SODERBERG

Rating: 71.9#110 C

Phil Kessel
PHIL KESSEL

Rating: 74.7#30 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.41#12 FL3
Michael Grabner
MICHAEL GRABNER

Rating: 71.5#102 LW

Brad Richardson
BRAD RICHARDSON

Rating: 71.7#121 C

Christian Fischer
CHRISTIAN FISCHER

Rating: 70.0#114 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.08#16 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Oliver Ekman-Larsson
OLIVER EKMAN-LARSSON

Rating: 76.0#11 LD

Jason Demers
JASON DEMERS

Rating: 73.5#41 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 74.75#16 DL1
Jakob Chychrun
JAKOB CHYCHRUN

Rating: 74.8#28 LD

Alex Goligoski
ALEX GOLIGOSKI

Rating: 74.5#25 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 74.64#11 DL2
Aaron Ness
AARON NESS

Rating: 73.7#47 LD

Jordan Oesterle
JORDAN OESTERLE

Rating: 72.6#65 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 73.13#9 DL3

Third liner Phil Kessel. Seems about right. Anyway, here are 5 things to watch for…

1. HOLY CRAP! THE LEAFS HAVE A NEW COACH!

Better state the obvious and state it repeatedly. So, it’s the first game and he has had a morning skate with the players and that’s it. We’re probably not getting new systems, new lines, new defense pairings, and Pierre Engvall is not the new net presence on the power play. This will be a bit of an observation game and Keefe will get a chance to look at what he’s going to want to change will starting to give his players a bit of an idea of what he’s all about.

Player ice time is probably going to be what stands out the most tonight, as well as any later in the game adjustments. I’m expecting we’ll see less line matching, and less of the fourth line in general, though that might be projecting my wishes onto Keefe, something I think a lot of us will be doing.

2. How will Tyson Barrie respond?

It’s the worst kept secret in hockey that Barrie and Babcock weren’t seeing eye to eye, and with the change also comes the assumption that Tyson Barrie now has the green light to be the offensive dynamo he once was. A statement game would be lovely, but at this point I’d settle for him looking comfortable out there.

3. Auston Matthews in Arizona

Matthews is free to be Matthews and what better place to do it than in the comfort of his own home. He’s going to be looking to put on a show, and he’s likely to see more ice time to do it. I’d be scared if I was the the Coyotes, and tonight be the night when the Leafs witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station.

4. Who’s on thin ice?

It’s going to take more than one game for players to get written off, and the roster overhauled to suit what Keefe wants to do, but we’ll likely see some line blending throughout the game and possibly some changes to the D pairings. It will be interesting to see who is most effected.

If I had to guess, players that will see change for the good: Tyson Barrie, Travis Dermott, Jason Spezza, and Pierre Engvall

Players I’d expect to see icetime reduced or find their way to the press box: Cody Ceci, Freddie Gauthier, and Nick Shore

Dubas recently praised Ceci, and I think some of that is sincere, but even with that praise and the high likelihood he remains in the lineup, I can’t imagine he’ll continue to see top pairing minutes and we might see that beginning of the transition away from that tonight.

5. The Leafs are fun to watch?

I know it’s a late game, but aren’t excited to tune in for the first time in a while? The Leafs still have a huge hill to climb to get into the playoffs, but it seems possible again and that it will at least be fun to watch them try. Also without Keefe putting in his own systems that means the Leafs players are free to be themselves out there, and a lot of them are really fun hockey players. Hooray!

The game starts at 9PM ET and can be found on Sportsnet.