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Maple Leafs shake up forward lines, spread out offence with Marner’s return

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
2 months ago
One of the most talked-about topics in the Toronto sports media stratosphere lately is where Mitch Marner is going to play when he returns to the lineup. Today marked the practice ahead of his likely return to the lineup tomorrow night against the Montreal Canadiens, and head coach Sheldon Keefe did something somewhat unexpected that will likely be pleasantly received alike.
Instead of putting Marner back on the top line with Auston Matthews, where he’s historically spent most of his time since Keefe took over as head coach, he slotted Marner onto the second line with John Tavares and Bobby McMann, bumping William Nylander down to the third line.
The move keeps the Bertuzzi-Matthews-Domi line together, which bodes well for those players in particular going forward considering the success they’ve had together so far. Bertuzzi has seven goals and nine points in his last ten games, Domi has seven assists in his last ten, and Matthews has eight goals and 17 points in his last ten. It’s obvious that nobody compares to Marner from a playmaking standpoint, but Domi’s probably the next-best option on that front. He’s proven his ability to produce in a top-six role in the past, and while he’s versatile enough to play anywhere in the top nine, he’s also deserving of an extended run on the top line considering the success they’ve seen.
Bumping Nylander down to the third line, but simultaneously giving him offensive-minded players to work with, makes the decision that much better, as well. Holmberg displays some sneaky skill and Knies has proven he can work well with any of the team’s core players. This lineup formation is something we could see more of going into the playoffs. Loading up the top six is great and all, but when you have the kind of offensive depth the Leafs do and contributing complementary pieces like Bertuzzi and Domi, it makes it harder on the opponent when you can spread out your weapons and give them more to shut down.
This new look unfortunately comes at the expense of Nick Robertson, who was in tough to remain in the lineup with the eventual return of both Jarnkrok and Marner. Robertson has turned on his game a little bit lately, with three points in his last two games, but the fourth line of Connor Dewar-David Kampf-Ryan Reaves has been gelling nicely lately as well, leaving him without much of a spot in the lineup.
The Leafs are back in action on tomorrow night against the Montreal Canadiens, visiting them on the road for the final matchup of the season between the two teams.

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