Bertuzzi has a maintenance day as the Maple Leafs shuffle lines and pairings: Leafs Practice Notes
Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
By Jon Steitzer1 month ago
It was only a matter of time before some tinkering took place with the Leafs lineup card. A 4-1 loss to the lottery winning Chicago Blackhawks will do that and Sheldon Keefe seems to be addressing his two biggest issues, the second defensive pairing and getting the most out of his rookies.
First off the absence of Bertuzzi is just a maintenance day. Given that he was largely brought in to play against teams like Florida that have given the Leafs a tough time it makes sense that they want him rested and ready to go for the Panthers tomorrow night.
So with that context, if it wasn’t painfully obvious, Noah Gregor is a top line placeholder, albeit an interesting one. Noah Gregor’s resume isn’t entirely different than Michael Bunting’s when he was thrust into that top line role and while I don’t think the Leafs are ready to do anything as bold as Gregor on the top line to start a game, I don’t think it is a coincidence that he is in the placeholder spot over someone like Kampf or Reaves.
The biggest takeaway from the forward line shuffle is that Matthew Knies has been moved up to the second line. There is something that makes too much sense about this as the second line mirrors a lot of the playmaking, scoring, and grinding model of the top line and Knies adds some back checking accountability that wasn’t there previously as well.
Domi on the third line also makes sense. Both Minten and Jarnkrok have the ability to produce offence but needed a playmaking catalyst. Domi also has two players who can cover off his complete lack of awareness when the puck isn’t on his stick as well so it will be interesting to see if the Leafs run with this and it seems like the best line to judge whether Fraser Minten should stick with the Leafs after his nine game trial. The fact that Jarnkrok and Domi both have experience at the centre position also seems like a good support to the rookie.
Simon Benoit on the final line is another case of a placeholder, but I also wonder if it means we are closer to seeing the Leafs try their 11F/7D approach. Heading out on the road some defensive flexibility is a good thing but I guess if that was the case they’d try to force Benoit into more defensive situations in practice, so expect him to remain a scratch tomorrow night.
As for the defensive pairings, mercifully Sheldon Keefe is giving McCabe a run with Timothy Liljegren as his partner for the next game. It’s a great chance for Liljegren but it is also a chance for the Leafs to learn to what extent they can truly count on McCabe as the strong part of a second pairing. It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Sheldon Keefe also divide the work of the bottom two pairings by zone starts and McCabe and Liljegren will see a lot more defensive zone work while Giordano and Klingberg are sheltered to the fullest extent allowable by the flow of the game.
As for who starts in net on Thursday, that remains a mystery. Does Woll get a chance to play in front of a Leafs team that owes him the same run support that Samsonov has received or does Ilya get his chance to play his way out of the early season funk. Given that it seems too early for Sheldon Keefe to go away from his planned starts calendar, this is probably a Samsonov game.
Updated: Samsonov starts
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