Despite the win, Maple Leafs have lineup changes to consider for Game 3

Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
While William Nylander may force Sheldon Keefe to take out one of his 12 forwards from the Maple Leafs Game 2 victory over the Boston Bruins, Keefe also needs to consider taking Timothy Liljegren out of the lineup.
Liljegren was by far the Maple Leafs’ worst defenceman in Game 2. There were times when the puck would wind up on his stick and he’d decide to try and rim it far side to absolutely nobody or make a horrible read trying to force a pass to his partner, Joel Edmundson, instead of either rushing with it or advancing it up the ice.
Liljegren played 20:44 in Game 2 and didn’t record a hit or a shot on net.  While he’s had issues of his own towards the end of the regular season, Keefe needs to consider if TJ Brodie is a better option at this point for Game 3.  The Leafs coach admitted landing on six defencemen to start the series was no easy task:
I haven’t made any lineup decisions that we’ll talk about here. But we’ve got lots of good options on defense
The Leafs have done what they can to limit Liljegren’s play in the defensive zone, as he’s only started his shifts in the d-zone 8.2% of the time, which is very low considering Edmundson leads the team with 21.7% of his shifts starting in his own zone. There seems to be a lack of confidence that Liljegren can safely get the puck out of his own end and up the ice.
So what exactly has Liljegren been doing the first two games? His expected goals for so far are the worst among the Leafs blueliners at 29.5%, he’s attempted four shots on goal, with one missing the net and three others blocked, he laid three hits in Game 1, none in Game 2 and has yet to block a shot in either game. It gets worse – his expected goals against per 60 minutes right now is a staggering 4.37, which is the worst among Leafs defenders.
Regardless of which stat you feel like zoning in on, the eye test is just as bad right now based on Liljegren’s decisions with the puck, his reads on where he feels his best outlets are, and the execution. He’s struggling to go tape-to-tape throughout any part of the game, regardless of which zone he’s in and the Swedish blueliner has become a bit of a ‘rally killer’ where the play stops advancing in the Maple Leafs’ favour once he touches the puck. Is Brodie going to be that much better? Maybe not, but it could be worth a look.

Who Comes Out for Nylander?

The mystery injury has taken over headlines for the Maple Leafs through the first week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as it came out of nowhere. Seeing Nylander skate and join his teammates for practice certainly doesn’t feel right with how gingerly he’s moving and how he’s not even getting involved in line rushes.
Game 3 is set for Wednesday night in Toronto, could Nylander dress? The Maple Leafs are certainly hopeful and perhaps another couple of days off will help with his back or shoulder, or whatever seems to be in pain. So if Nylander inserts, who departs?
Personally, this is an easy decision and it’s Ryan Reaves. And that’s no slight on the Leafs’ enforcer as he’s been everything as advertised so far through two games, some good and some, well, not-so-good. His decision to hit a Bruin at the blue line, one that was already being engaged by Joel Edmundson allowed for the Bruins to go down and open the series scoring in Game 1. Horrible decision on Reaves’ part. Game 2 was better, the line of him, Connor Dewar and David Kampf was great, they cycled the puck well, generated chances and brought a lot of energy to the lineup. The only issue for Reaves is the fact Dewar and Kampf kill penalties, he does not. And with Nylander coming back, another penalty killer, however because of his injury he may have to play limited minutes or in a limited role, so he may not be an option for the PK.
Nevertheless, Keefe and company will re-watch the game tape from Game 2 and when they do, they’ll notice Liljegren was by far the Maple Leafs worst defenceman. With a veteran like Brodie, chomping at the bit to get back in the lineup, Keefe should think long and hard about making the change for at least Game 3.

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