Mark Giordano “feels ready to go” and the new defensive pairings: Leafs Practice Notes

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
There’s nothing like a loss to the basement dwelling Ottawa Senators to emphasize the need for some changes in the lineup. Any interest in keeping Mark Giordano out a little longer probably went out the window the second the Senators took the lead on Wednesday night and as a result here’s a defence centric practice update:
So that’s that. Mark Giordano is ready to go. Now it’s a matter of what the defensive pairings will look like.
These are a bit different and warrant a bit of discussion. Well…not the Rielly and Brodie pairing which is somehow going to remain a constant until the trade deadline and then Rielly and Brodie will be forced to figure out new partners at the 11th hour, but we’ll save that conversation for a longer post and focus on the three new pairings we are seeing.
Benoit and McCabe looks like a solid defensive zone pairing and the Giordano and Liljegren pairing is certainly capable of moving the puck well and generating some offence.
McCabe is back over on the right side of the ice and while he is capable of playing there it hasn’t always been ideal. I’d personally make the case that Lagesson might have been a better partner for McCabe as Lagesson would have been able to handle the right side. And while wishful thinking would say put Timmins there, McCabe hasn’t demonstrated the ability to work well with partners with excessive defensive shortcomings. Benoit with McCabe is certainly an attempt to play some meaner hockey and seeing them together for a game or two has peaked my interest. I would see this as more of the third pairing and the Giordano/Liljegren pairing as the second pairing, but what we probably see is Giordano and Benoit playing around 15 minutes while McCabe and Liljegren still find closer to 20 minutes a night.
The Giordano/Liljegren pairing is something we’ve seen a lot of in the past and perhaps bringing some familiarity back into the fold is by design. Keefe now has two pairings that he’s regularly used before and with McCabe looking as good as he has as a Leaf he might help get a third pairing working and Toronto can roll three somewhat reliable defensive pairings at 5v5.
As for the Lagesson/Timmins pairing, this looks like a great project of a longer term option for the third pairing. Lagesson as shown the ability to be useful in all situations as long as he is facing bottom six competition and Timmins has an important offensive upside the Leafs should want to tap into. They might not be playing but having the two of them take rushes together in practice seems beneficial.
There was always going to be a split with the Leafs playing Friday and Saturday, but giving Samsonov the Blue Jackets when he had a bad time the last time they faced each other might not have been the best decision. I guess it comes down to the pressure of playing a good team at home on a Saturday night or facing a team that lit him up and will be setting off a cannon after every one of Samsonov’s mistakes. There isn’t an ideal option, but next week I’d at least save Samsonov for the Ducks instead of the Kings.
The Leafs lines remain unchanged from Wednesday night and that’s a bit of a bummer. There are still a lot of things that could be tested with this group and we know there is some potential that can be unlocked with putting Marner with Domi. If the intention is to get the defence sorted out before moving onto the forwards, I can appreciate that approach.
The Leafs play Columbus tomorrow night before returning home to face Carolina on Saturday.
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