At first, I had heard that the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to make some cuts after Friday night’s Blue and White game, but that didn’t happen. Now the news is that the team is going to play two different groups during the next two preseason games – one on Monday and the other on Tuesday – and then make cuts after that time.
That plan actually makes sense. It gives the Maple Leafs one final preseason game to play what will likely be their regular-season starting roster. And, in that last preseason game, one might actually have a chance to see Auston Matthews lace up his skates in earnest.
In fact, the word today was that Matthews was taking part in a full practice today. Nothing is for sure, but he looks as if he’s gearing up for the regular season.
Mark Masters’ Tweets and What They Mean
Today, while at the Maple Leafs’ practice Here are the groups for today’s practice as tweeted by Mark Masters.
Thoughts About the Group 1 Deployment
I have a couple of thoughts about the Group 1 deployment.
First, putting Alex Kerfoot, David Kampf, and Ondrej Kase together suggests that Coach Sheldon Keith is looking for a shut-down third line. Also moving Kerfoot to the wing also suggests that Kerfoot’s flexibility can help him play up and down the line more easily.
Second, playing Michael Bunting and Josh Ho-Sang together carries over the preseason success that these two players had together. They looked to have some jump on a line with center John Tavaras during the first preseason game. Then, in preseason game three, Ho-Sang and Bunting seemed to make magic together, and on Bunting’s hat trick Ho-Sang added an assist on each of the goals. There’s something happening there between those two players.
Third, the Pierre Engvall, Adam Brooks, and Wayne Simmonds’ combination looks like a foretaste of a fourth line that the team might regularly employ during the regular season.
In truth, I have no idea what to make of the power-play units listed in group one. Rasmus Sandin, Jason Spezza, and Bunting make sense if the usual suspects of Matthews and Marner are not playing. It’s interesting that Kase and Simmonds are there, but that too makes some sense because of their net-front presence.
The second unit listed of Jake Muzzin, Ho-Sang, and Nick Robertson seems to put some creative playmakers together, But I don’t know what to make of Engvall and Kerfoot on that unit.
Thoughts About the Group 2 Deployment
Here are my considerations for Group 2. The Nick Ritchie, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner line will probably be the team’s top line to start the regular season. It was suspected to be that way and it looks as if there’s not much there to change that prognostication during training camp or the preseason games. Of course, without Matthews involved in the games, who’s to know for certain?
The second line of Ilya Mikheyev, John Tavares, and William Nylander is interesting because it looks as if Mikheyev might be getting a good look at the left-wing in the top six.
Third, on the defense, it’s no surprise that Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie are playing together. They will be inseparable during the season unless there’s an injury.
Summary of Thoughts About Today’s Line Combinations
Obviously, very little can be made for sure about these line combinations because we’re still in the preseason. However, we can see some inkling of what coach Keefe might be considering as he moves towards the regular season. It will be interesting to see how the next three preseason games play out.
There are jobs on the line. There are players in these groups who’ll be sent down to the AHL Toronto Marlies. The 2121-22 regular season is about to begin.
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