Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Return of the 11/7 and a possible Reaves scratching: Maple Leafs practice notes
By Alex Hobson3 months ago
After an embarrassing loss to a divisional rival yesterday, the Leafs could be taking a more drastic approach to their lineup changes. While head coach Sheldon Keefe wouldn’t confirm anything, it appears that the team is trending towards running with 11 forwards and seven defencemen depending on the health of Jake McCabe, with Ryan Reaves as a healthy scratch. This is a decision that I actually commend Keefe for making, seeing that he’s recognizing two of his biggest issues to start the season.
Reaves has been dragging down the fourth line’s pace of play, with a forgettable minus-9 rating to start the season, and the decision to go with seven defencemen also allows the Leafs to further shelter John Klingberg. This shouldn’t be a necessity for someone making over $4 million, but that’s where they’re at right now.
Also of note, the Leafs recalled forward Pontus Holmberg from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Seeing that the Marlies have a pair of games this weekend, I don’t see why they would call him up only to have him ride the pine. That said, he wasn’t skating with the main group today, so if he gets into the lineup it won’t be until Saturday night.
Keefe also announced his starting goaltenders for the team’s back-to-back home games this weekend. Joseph Woll will return to the pipes tomorrow night against the Calgary Flames, while Ilya Samsonov will start against the red-hot Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
While both goaltenders are coming off of bad starts of their own, the decision to start Samsonov against the better team given his struggles to start this season is one that carries a decent amount of risk. Through seven games to start the season, Samsonov is 2-1-2 with a save percentage (SV%) of .855 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 4.11. He’s coming off a start on Monday night that saw him pulled after allowing four goals on 12 shots against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was eerily similar to his start the last time the Leafs and Lightning played when he allowed three goals on four shots before being pulled.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks are having a phenomenal start to their season. They’ve got a record of 9-2-1 while riding a four-game win streak, including a 10-1 beatdown of the San Jose Sharks. They pose far more of a threat than the Calgary Flames, who sit at 4-7-1 in the same division. Maybe Keefe is playing 4D chess here and taking note of the Leafs’ tendencies to bail on games against bad teams and show up against good ones.
The Maple Leafs will have the week off following this weekend’s back-to-back as they prepare for a two-game series in Sweden next weekend.
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