Now freed from the constraints of the salary cap, the Toronto Maple Leafs have seemingly decided on their playoff lineup for Game 1 on Thursday. At practice today, the Leafs skated with the following lineup:
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Nick Foligno – John Tavares – William Nylander
Alex Kerfoot – Riley Nash – Ilya Mikheyev
Joe Thornton – Jason Spezza – Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly – T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin – Travis Dermott
Jack Campbell
Frederik Andersen
To the surprise of no one, Sheldon Keefe confirmed today that Campbell will be the starter in Game 1, so breathe a collective sigh of relief Leafs Nation.
Galchenyuk, Engvall, Brooks, Sabourin, Hollowell, Malgin and Bogosian all skated as extras, although it should be noted that Bogosian skated in a red ‘no-contact’ jersey, so while his recovery is apparently going well (Keefe said he is trending towards a return at some point during the Montreal series), he will not be an option going into Game 1.
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Ben Hutton was mysteriously absent, but nothing was said about his status or any reasons for his abscence so we’ll leave it at that
The struggling power play is getting yet another shakeup by the looks of things, returning to the approach of having two balanced units as it was at the start of the season, but with one notable shakeup:
Rasmus Sandin has officially usurped Morgan Rielly as the 1st PP unit quarterback. Zach Hyman also moves up to the 1st unit after filling the netfront role on the 2nd unit at the start of the season. Keefe also had 5-forward unit of Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander and Hyman run a few drills, presumably for 5-on-3 situations.
On Riley Nash and the decision to bring him into the lineup:
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Nash will no doubt be used in a defensive-minded shutdown role, a part that he’s played successfully in the past playing against the Leafs as a Bruin and Blue Jacket. He also took reps on the penalty kill, partnered up with his fellow former Columbus teammate Nick Foligno.
We’ll wrap this up with a great quote from Morgan Rielly, something that should be a focus in every player’s mind as we approach the start of the playoffs: