Maple Leafs on the road to recovery and a healthy playoff lineup

Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
22 days ago
Following the Maple Leafs’ victory over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday night, Sheldon Keefe provided a bit of an optimistic update regarding Timothy Liljegren and Calle Jarnkrok.
In addition to those two pending returns the Maple Leafs also have the return of Joel Edmundson to look forward to and given that he has already been participating in practices it seems that he is likely to be back in sooner rather than later, something that Keefe and crew likely view as more critical given that he is far less of a known on the roster than the two Swedes.
When it comes to Joel Edmundson and Timothy Liljegren, the Leafs never utilized cap relief by putting them off on long-term injuries. They will simply slide right back into the lineup as needed.
Calle Jarnkrok will be a slightly different story as his $2.1M cap hit has been a part of what has allowed for several recalls to the Leafs and activating him requires a decision to be made, either to do a paperwork shuffle and send the two players that don’t require waivers (Knies and Robertson) to the Marlies to make room and give Jarnkrok a skate or the Leafs could make a ridiculously late in the season decision to waive Gregor, Timmins, or Jones to make the move.
Given that Calle Jarnkrok has played the second most playoff games out of anyone on the Leafs (behind only Ryan Reaves) and Jarnkrok’s status as the “Swedish Army Knife” there is also a strong possibility that Jarnkrok will be shelved until Game One and Keefe will trust him to slot in as needed. The biggest catch might be how much pressure the NHL will put on teams regarding the convenient LTIR recoveries around playoff time.
When it comes to how Sheldon Keefe sees the remaining few games of the season playing out he responded with:
There’s a lot of now specific coach speak there but it certainly seems that maintaining the health of the lineup is a big part of the plan. The Leafs have a game at hand and are four points ahead of the Lightning in the standings. It also seems unlikely that the Leafs are going to make a big push to win their way out to have home-ice advantage against the Panthers when Toronto has been more successful on the road this season.
The Leafs aren’t going to have much luck in pulling Auston Matthews out of the lineup while he has an achievable shot at 70 goals but keeping him under 20 minutes a night seems likely. Getting Nylander to 100 points is also something that likely matters inside the Leafs room and Toronto will try to get him there. And with Marner already missing a good chunk of time he’s likely to skate most nights.
So additional rest for the veterans like Tavares, Brodie, and even McCabe might be nice and using players like Gregor and Timmins now to get the lineup healthy and rested, as well as have their depth not far removed from game situations is the best place for the Leafs to be heading into the playoffs. It’s also why I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Martin Jones.
The Leafs’ backloaded schedule means 4 games in 6 nights this week so it will be interesting to see how much Keefe plays around with the lineup card. You can make equally strong cases for the Leafs developing some consistency in who plays with whom and the Leafs taking the remaining few games to try out a few combinations that Keefe was reluctant to use earlier in the season. We still haven’t really seen Connor Dewar at centre.
No matter what the Leafs do, it’s probably best for Keefe to go easy in the final two games against the Panthers and Lightning. There’s no incentive to have their best players in tough matchups on the road to close out the year, especially against opponents who will want to see the Leafs as banged up as possible.

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