The Leafs are still in Vegas and this could be leading to the “Vegas Flu” being a thing that benefits other west coast teams during Pacific road trips as well as the Leafs head out for San Jose tomorrow night. There were a few things worth noting from practice today, and we’ll start with the important one first:
John Tavares is okay
The Leafs are truly lacking a strong Plan B for a top six center assignment as Kerfoot as demonstrated he struggles with the center role during the regular season, so the fact that Tavares is healthy enough to play is a win for the Leafs.
We’ll just jump straight into the second part of that tweet and look at the two scratches, Simmonds and Aube-Kubel.
For me, Simmonds is going to be a rarity in the Leafs lineup. It made sense against the Jets, playing against an opponent that tends to get under their skin, but for a week night game against San Jose there is no point. Let Wayne play his old Kings team if you want to get him back in on this trip, but San Jose doesn’t make sense.
As for Aube-Kubel, Nic has been a little underwhelming in comparison to the other Leafs newbies this season (that’s me being nice), and a night off to watch the game in San Jose seems warranted. It’s not the playoffs, the Leafs don’t need to beef up their lineup just yet.
The return of Denis
Malgin has been good in the games he played but was dropped due to Nick Robertson showing he’s capable of being an every game Leaf going forward. Malgin getting knocked out was just Sheldon Keefe wanting to stick with his vision for two tough to play against lines for the bottom six. The problem is they haven’t been too hard to play against yet. Bringing Malgin back in and giving the Leafs a player who was playing good hockey is the right decision.
Finding the right spot for Zach Aston-Reese is also important as he is capable of being one of the Leafs better regular season bottom six players, it’s just a matter of finding his fit on the Leafs. I wonder if it’s beside Jarnkrok instead of Kampf.
The new look Leafs lines
Might as well go line by line through these to make sense of them:
- With the Leafs top line underperforming and the Leafs second line looking good it makes sense that they are the temporary home for Alex Kerfoot instead of Tavares’ line. I’m not sure how this makes the top line better, but it gets Kerfoot away from playing center and that will help him out at least.
- The second line is rightfully being left alone, but I wonder if the next step will be to flip Kerfoot and Robertson to give Nick a shot with the big boys. Having another shooter on the top line might free up some ice for Matthews.
- I have to say I’m really excited about the third line and hope we get to see more than one period of it. Jarnkrok seems better suited than Kerfoot for the 3C spot and Malgin’s puck carrying and distributing abilities add something to a line that is grindy, but capable of offense as well.
- Reuniting Engvall and Kampf is a good start and while it seems a long shot that Zach Aston-Reese will be a clone of a healthy Ondrej Kase, why not try it a couple more times before moving on?
The Leafs defense remains pretty much as expected with Rielly/Brodie, Sandin/Holl, and Giordano/Mete with Kral as the scratch. Hopefully we’ll see something a bit more inspired once Benn and Liljegren provide Keefe with a few more options to work with.
The Leafs play Thursday night in San Jose at 10:30 PM ET.