Maple Leafs adjust forward lines while keeping Justin Holl in the lineup on defence for pivotal Game 5 against Lightning
Photo credit:Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs will shuffle up their offence by moving William Nylander back down to the third line while Justin Holl remains in the lineup when the they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday.
The Leafs also reunited Michael Bunting on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner during the team’s morning skate.
Tavares and Nylander skated together on the second line for Games 3 and 4 in Tampa but have been split back up like they were to start the series.
“The focus for me is not necessarily having Nylander and Tavares apart as much as it is having Mikheyev + Kerfoot and Engvall + Kampf on two different lines,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said.
With home ice back on Toronto’s side, Keefe is looking to get better matchups in their favour and keeping making those adjustments for more of a defensive presence, especially on the team’s second line.
Tavares’ lack of production at even strength has been at talking point over the course of the season and that has continued into the postseason with just one even-strength assist.
“He’s the same guy as always, nothing has changed which is great to see,” Marner said of Tavares. “Stuff hasn’t fallen for him but I’m sure it will.”
The defence remains the same for Game 5 and that included Justin Holl’s position on the bottom pair with Mark Giordano.
Holl was the focal point of a turnover in the opening minute that led to the Lightning’s opening goal of Game 4. Keefe said he watched the game three times and felt Holl earned the right to stay in for Game 5.
“The Giordano-Holl pairing was as good a pairing we had,” Keefe said. “Hollsy’s a driver of that, a lot. To me, he’s coming off his best game, certainly of the two that he played.”
Holl’s contribution to the penalty kill, which has been used more often than the club would like during the post-season, is another reason the player has factored into the six.
“He’s been a great player for us all and doesn’t get the love he deserves,” Marner said of Holl “He’s huge on the penalty kill and when he gets out there he’s not afraid to step up and eat a block from a big-name guy.”
Although Timothy Liljegren played in Games 1 and 2, Keefe has felt the players’ play alongside Giordano had not been to the level that’s it was during the regular season.
“Other than the first shift of the game last game I though we moved the puck well,” Giordano said of Holl. “I think he’s just got to keep building on his game and keep doing what he’s doing.”
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