Sheldon Keefe: “Lots of potential” in loaded-up Nylander-Tavares-Marner line

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
14 days ago
The new-look lineup the Toronto Maple Leafs have been icing recently has been one of the biggest topics in the stratosphere of late. When a month-long injury to Mitch Marner forced the Leafs to get creative up front, it produced a line that it would appear the Leafs are going to use going into the playoffs, that line being Auston Matthews in the middle with Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi on either side.
Sheldon Keefe’s faith in this line was confirmed when Marner returned to the lineup and was slotted in alongside John Tavares and Bobby McMann, bumping William Nylander down to the third line and giving the Leafs a newfound “triple threat” look up front. Marner has been back for four games and has skated on the second line in each of them, tallying five assists across those games. Simultaneously, Matthews has goals in seven straight games, nine total over that span, and has five goals in the four games Marner has been back for, so neither party is suffering without skating alongside their most familiar linemate.
While it’s been tough sledding for Nylander, who is without a goal in his last eight games with only two assists during that span, his chances haven’t slowed down and he will always draw the eyes of his opponents regardless of if he’s on a hot streak or not. And even though he’s been on the third line for the past few games, there are still going to be lots of opportunities for him in the top six going into the postseason, and Keefe confirmed this at practice.
While Nylander, Tavares, and Marner haven’t skated together to start a game yet, we saw a glimpse of it in their most recent game against the New Jersey Devils, and with no confirmed lines for their upcoming game against the Detroit Red Wings yet, it’s unknown if they’ll skate together tonight. Whether they use it in the regular season or not, it sounds like this is something that could especially come to fruition whenever Calle Jarnkrok returns to the lineup. Jarnkrok has been sidelined with a hand injury on two separate occasions this year, with the most recent coming against the Philadelphia Flyers back in March. It’s unknown when he’ll return to the lineup, but loading up that top line and running Matthew Knies, Pontus Holmberg, and Jarnkrok on the third line would still give them a deep look up front.
This all being said, don’t expect this to be the end of the third-line William Nylander experience. There will always be tinkering and adjusting for certain situations, and whether Nylander starts games on the third or second line, the loaded second line will always be an option for when the team needs a goal.

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