The Leafs should stick with the Bertuzzi-Matthews-Domi line after Marner returns

Nick Alberga
24 days ago
After missing 11 games (and counting) with a high-ankle sprain, it sounds like Mitch Marner’s return to the Maple Leafs lineup could be imminent.
Reading the tea leaves from Sheldon Keefe’s scrum on Tuesday, assuming everything goes according to plan, the 26-year-old could be poised to make his highly anticipated return on Saturday night in Montreal.
In turn, that would leave Marner, who’s been out since March 7th, with seven regular season outings to get back up to speed again before everything gets going for real on April 20th.
Not that it even needs to be said, but despite the fact that the Leafs have managed to go 7-3-1 in the absence of their All-Star right winger, there’s no doubt that they’re a better team with him than without him.
Naturally, due to the emergence of the Bertuzzi-Matthews-Domi trio in recent weeks, the debate on where Toronto should deploy Marner upon his return has picked up considerable steam over the past few days.
In short, it doesn’t matter. The sole focus over the final few regular season contests should be primarily health. In a perfect world, Sheldon Keefe would love access to his entire artillery ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. At this point, it remains a mystery if guys like Calle Jarnkrok, Timothy Liljegren, and Joel Edmundson, among others, will be available to dress for the opening game of Round 1. The clock is ticking.
With respect to Marner, the goal should be a simple and linear one, too. Needless to say, the Leafs need him at full power, or they won’t be doing anything significant this spring. Plain and simple.
With all that in mind, there’s no reason to put Marner right back with Matthews —at least directly out of the gates. As mentioned, the newly minted top line has been outstanding lately. Most importantly, they’ve been producing. Furthermore, there’s no question that they’ve formed some serious chemistry, and right now, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stray away from what’s working.
In the long run, the fortunate thing – which truly is the silver lining in this entire debate – is that Keefe knows exactly what the Matthews/Marner combo is capable of. That said, to this point, they’ve been unable to consistently get the job done in the postseason, so it’s not like they would be deviating from a proven solution.

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