Leafs in their St. Pats gear and rolling some wild lines: Leafs Practice Notes
Photo credit:Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer8 months ago
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Leafs on the ice and as I mentioned in Wednesday’s look at their remaining schedule, this was the last three day off stretch the team will enjoy between games. For much of the league teams will be fed into a woodchipper for the remaining month, but the Leafs will have four back-to-backs and a high volume of divisional games and road games. Today is the first look at the rested Leafs returning.
We’re also nearing the St. Pats stretch of the season. The Leafs playing Carolina on St. Patrick’s Day and that is likely the only appearance of that gear this season, at least at home.
Does this mean we’re seeing Simmonds in a game soon, well…the lineup below says he is. It does seem likely that the Leafs will make sure he gets a couple of games on the way out of the season though. There’s also something to be said for the final quarter of the season and dressing a player with Simmonds’ “talents.” Whether enforcers keep players honest or not is debatable, but he’s also an extra player to help with load-managing the core guys and is someone you don’t mind seeing on the ice against some of the Leafs divisional opposition that is coming up.
There are absolutely some takeaways here to look at and I am in love with some of the things we’re seeing here and decidedly against some other things.
We’ll start with Alex Kerfoot on the top line as one of things I’m decidedly against. I just wrote about how I am not a fan of Kerfoot on the top line or in the top six, but with the appreciation for the defensive games he brings. I’m not sure if Kerfoot is remaining here out of Keefe stubbornly wanting this or if the Leafs believe that he Kerfoot, Matthews, and Marner on the ice against Connor McDavid can limit what he does. In my experience of watching the Oilers, you don’t try to figure out how to stop Connor McDavid, you just beat up on the Oilers in the 35+ minutes he’s not on the ice.
Keeping the Nylander-Lafferty-Jarnkrok line together is an interesting choice that I don’t hate. Is Lafferty placeholding for Ryan O’Reilly? Is this something that Keefe really believes in? Anyway, I don’t hate it, especially at this point of the season. I feel like the Leafs are trying to make themselves harder to play against and there will be some trial and error over the remaining games.
The Tavares return to the lineup and sees him next to Bunting and Simmonds. I don’t know what all the Leafs are hoping to accomplish here but seemingly the plan is to sit three forwards directly on top of the goaltender. Bunting and Tavares has never really been a thing and without a puck carrier on the line it seems like Simmonds might just be there for line rushes will the Leafs plan on going with 11 forwards against Edmonton and Nylander and/or Marner could see time in that spot as well.
The Rielly and Gustafsson pairing is the kind of thing that seems like it could be a fun sheltered pairing on home ice. Against a team like the Oilers that struggles with team defense, this could be a great approach to keep the puck moving in a favourable direction for the Leafs. Of course this also has Gustafsson on his wrong side and while wasn’t at practice today the plan does seem for him to be in the Leafs lineup tomorrow:
Schenn and Rielly have been as much of a staple as McCabe and Brodie on the post deadline Leafs, so Gustafsson is likely in as the 7th D (as he was QBing the second power play unit).
That leaves Giordano with Liljgren. This is the closest thing to normal of the group but also makes it look like Justin Holl is a healthy scratch. Leafs twitter, plan your celebrations accordingly.
Certainly there is a lot happening with what Keefe has put together and you’ll like some of it, you’ll question a lot of it, or as per Leafs tradition, you’ll completely lose your mind over it. With over 24 hours until the next game there is a very strong possibility these aren’t the lines we’ll see and honestly, that’s too bad. I don’t think there is anything wrong with treating this final quarter as the preseason for the playoffs. Maybe we’ll see two lines or pairings the Leafs would seriously consider and the rest is just trying to see what works. It should make the remaining schedule fun and less of a grind.
The Leafs play tomorrow night against Edmonton and it was previously stated that Matt Murray would be the likely starter.
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