Connect with us

Toronto Maple Leafs

Predicting Maple Leafs’ Defensive Lineup: Game 1 of the Playoffs

As the Toronto Maple Leafs enter the playoffs, which players will be part of their defensive pairings? Can this group be physical enough?

One key question looms as the Toronto Maple Leafs gear up for the postseason. Which defensemen will make the starting lineup for Game One? With a roster boasting nine defensemen, there’s plenty of speculation about who will get the nod and what the pairings will be.

Related: 3 Looming Questions as the Maple Leafs Enter the Playoffs

Locks in the Lineup: Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe

Two players are absolute locks for the playoff lineup – Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe. Barring injuries, these stalwarts will anchor the defense for the Maple Leafs’ postseason campaign. With the right partner, Rielly is an offensive force who can emerge during the playoffs. Is Ilya Lyubushkin the right partner? The answer to that question is a key to the team’s success.

McCabe is emerging as one of the team’s best defensemen. He’s become a lay-it-all-on-the-line for-the-team type of player, and he has the battle scars to prove his commitment to the team. No one shows the wounds of the regular season in the same way as McCabe. He’s a warrior who, without much hype at all, moved to the team’s right side and has stayed there – playing well.

One Lingering Question: What Is Timothy Liljegren’s Status

Unless multiple injuries occur, Conor Timmins will likely find himself in the press box. Timmins shows offensive ability; however, there might be a concern that his game doesn’t yet translate to the postseason well—at least, not yet.

While Timothy Liljegren has shown promise, his recent injury and lack of game time might work against him in the playoff lineup. While he’s come back; and, in a perfect world, would be growing into a cornerstone of the team’s defense, the playoffs can be far from an ideal world.

Simon Benoit and Joel Edmundson should be able to help McCabe set the team’s physical tone. The Maple Leafs face a tough matchup against the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs, so fans should expect a more physical team. McCabe, Benoit, and Edmundson might get the nod if the coaching staff believes the series will be physical. These three have a reputation for physicality and are often tasked with handling top opposition players.

A Look at the Maple Leafs Pairings

Since the trade deadline, Rielly and Lyubushkin have mostly continued their partnership. Expect that to move into the playoffs, which should provide stability on the back end. The team’s bottom pair battle should be between three veterans: Edmundson, TJ Brodie, and Mark Giordano.

Morgan Rielly suspension Maple Leafs

Edmundson’s physical presence makes him a likely choice alongside Brodie in the battle of who will be in that bottom pairing. Giordano remains a strong option off the bench, primarily as a left-sided defenseman.

Our projected Game One defense lineup looks like this: First Pairing: Rielly and Lyubushkin; Second Pairing: Benoit and McCabe; Third Pairing: Edmundson and Brodie; with the Extras: Giordano and Liljegren.

[Note: I’d like to thank my often writing partner Stan Smith for his insights on this post.]

Related: Transforming the Defense of the Maple Leafs

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jon Harding

    April 18, 2024 at 11:55 am

    Interesting. I’d have Brodie on a very short leash.

Leave a Reply

More News

Discover more from NHL Trade Talk

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading