The lineups for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ practice on Sunday as reported by David Alter were:
Maple Leafs’ Forward Units
First Line: Bunting-Matthews-Marner
Second Line: Tavares-O’Reilly-Nylander
Third Line: Kerfoot-Acciari-Jarnkrok
Fourth Line: AstonReese-Kampf-Lafferty
Extras: Knies, Simmonds
Maple Leafs’ Defensive Pairings
First Pairing: McCabe-Brodie
Second Pairing: Giordano-Holl
Third Pairing: Rielly-Schenn
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Simmonds, Murray, Lafferty & Samsonov
Notes Stemming from the Maple Leafs Lineup
The first thing we want to mention is if this is the starting lineup then it means the Maple Leafs are starting the playoffs with the more traditional 12 forward/6 defensemen lineup.
Looking at the Forward Units
Going through line by line and pairing by pairing.
Line #1 Bunting-Matthews-Marner
That makes sense and is what we expected.
Line #2 Tavares-O’Reilly-Nylander
This line also makes sense. Having O’Reilly in the top six at home when Sheldon Keefe has the last change means Keefe has two loaded-up lines that he can put on the ice against weaker opponents, or for offensive faceoffs.
It would not surprise us to see O’Reilly moved to the third line when the series switches to Tampa and the Lightning have the last change.
Line #3 Kerfoot-Acciari-Jarnkrok
This combination might be a little surprising that Kampf is not centering this line. He would be considered by most to be the Maple Leafs’#1 shutdown center. Maybe Keefe feels that Acciari might provide more physicality to this line.
Line #4 AstonReese-Kampf-Lafferty
Kampf might be on this line instead of the third line in an effort to provide more balance in the bottom six.
Extras Knies – Simmonds
Although Knies performed well in the three games he played, it is no surprise that Keefe would not dress a 20-year-old fresh out of college with only three games of NHL experience. That isn’t to say that if someone is injured or performs badly we won’t see Knies at some point in the series.
While it would not surprise me if Keefe might have considered dressing Simmonds for this game in case things get out of hand or Tampa tried to run players, it is probably wiser not to stir the hornet’s nest. The Maple Leafs do have more physicality in their lineup this season even without Simmonds playing. If fisticuffs are felt to be necessary Luke Schenn is more than qualified to handle it.
It is also more beneficial for Keefe to get ten-plus minutes out of Aston-Reese or Lafferty than it would be playing Simmonds for five to eight minutes.
If the game does go South though, it would not surprise us to see Simmonds in Game 2.
Related: Can the Lightning Simply Flip a Switch to Beat the Maple Leafs?
Looking at the Defensive Pairings
Defensive Pairing #1 McCabe-Brodie
Again, with the last change, it appears that Keefe will want McCabe and Brodie out there versus Stamkos, Kucherov, and Point.
Defensive Pairing #2 Giordano-Holl
Even at the age of 39, Mark Giordano is still a top-four defenseman in the NHL. As for Justin Holl, he finished the season playing very strong hockey. It might be considered the best he has played in his career. It is definitely better than he has performed in the past couple of seasons.
Defensive Pairing #3 Rielly-Schenn
This is another matchup that might be better at home with the last change. If McCabe and Brodie spend most of the time facing Tampa’s top line, it gives Rielly easier competition against which to use his offensive talents. Schenn has done a decent job taking care of the defensive responsibilities for this pairing in the time they spent together at the end of the regular season.
We fully expect to see Rielly play 20 minutes or more in the game. It makes sense to have him play more than a usual third-pairing defenseman would normally play. The increase in ice time for him would probably come at Giordano’s expense in an effort to keep his ice time lower.
Once all the moves were completed at the deadline it appeared that Liljegren’s starting job for the playoffs was in jeopardy. While Liljegren’s play has improved immensely this season, he is still error-prone. In a series that might be so tight that one mistake could make the difference, it makes sense for Keefe to be cautious over Liljegren’s use.
Gustafsson was destined to be a depth piece right from the start.
Either one of these players could see action in later games in case someone gets banged up, or Keefe decides to use an 11-forward/7 defenseman lineup in a later game.
Related: Count On Ilya Samsonov Signing Long-Term with the Maple Leafs
Note: I wanted to thank my regular co-writer Stan Smith for providing the content for this post.
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