Life without Matthews, powerplay changes and the return of Dewar and Liljegren: Leafs Practice Notes

Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Things are grim in Leafs land and I’m not sure the lines from practice will help with that.
The first thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is the absence of Auston Matthews. His 3rd period absence on Saturday night prepared us for that but the fact that the Leafs are simply placeholding Nick Robertson, Connor Dewar, Carlton the Bear, etc. at centre on the top line points to the very real possibility that Auston Matthews won’t be available for Tuesday’s Game 5.
Not to get too heavy into the analysis side of things here but the Leafs playing an elimination game without Auston Matthews is bad. And the fact that he is unlikely to be at 100% even if he is in the lineup is a bummer as well.
The Leafs are now forced to move Max Domi back over to centre and while this line did produce a goal in the score effects zone on Saturday night, and it does benefit from Domi playing well with Marner and the strong chemistry between Domi and Bertuzzi, the line lacks a shooter and certainly has a defensive blackhole in the centre of the ice.
The Leafs lineup also features the return of William Nyander to John Tavares’ wing, which seems good for both of them but doesn’t do much for the rest of the lineup. I wonder if we’ll see Calle Jarnkrok take a few shifts away from Matthew Knies as well as the chemistry of the kid line late in the season might be beneficial and putting Jarnkrok with Tavares and Nylander makes them seem a bit more like an all purpose line.
The fourth line that many have become so attached to has also been reunited, so there’s that.
On the blueline it looks like the TJ Brodie experiment is over and Liljegren will be returning to lineup for Game 5. The Leafs inability to move the puck up the ice was noticeable in Game 4 and while concerns are warranted about the Edmundson-Liljegren pairing, bringing in Brodie didn’t address any of the shortcomings defensively and created additional issues for the Leafs.
The Leafs powerplay also has a different look without Matthews. The addition of Domi to a top unit that already features Marner and Rielly as pass first options is puzzling and presumably the Bruins can now look for the Nylander shot.
The second unit is a bit more like jazz and maybe the unpredictable nature will pay off. Robertson is clearly looking for the low shot, McCabe is the point shot, while Liljegren will be quarterbacking and Bertuzzi and Jarnkrok attempt to create something down low. It almost feels like swapping Domi and Robertson gives the Leafs two viable powerplay units without Auston Matthews but the Leafs powerplay units on paper have always looked better than on the ice.
It’s probably not Martin Jones.
On the Bruins side of things Brad Marchand was absent from their practice. It is being listed as a maintenance day so expecting a significant lineup change for the Bruins that benefits the Leafs probably isn’t happening.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Boston at 7pm ET.

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