Leafs preparing for a rough one on Thursday, dress Clifford, Simmonds to keep Tom Wilson in check

Published April 14, 2022 at 12:57
BY BEN HODGSON
One of the unexpected fun parts of this post deadline Maple Leafs team is that they can dress completely different looking 4th lines on any given night depending on the opponent. Against skilled teams, they can roll out a 4th line of Abruzzese, Blackwell and Spezza for a fast line with some scoring ability. Against heavy teams, like Washington, They can slot Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford in on that line to lay the boom on opponents.

For tonight's game against Washington, the 4th line will be Clifford-Blackwell-Simmonds. Don't look for much in terms of scoring or possession time from these 3 - their directive is clear; crash, bang and keep guys like Tom Wilson honest. If I'm wearing a red jersey tonight, I'm keeping my head on a swivel when these guys are on the ice.

The ability to dress both Simmonds and Clifford is really facilitated by Colin Blackwell. At the time of the trade, everybody focused on Mark Giordano coming to Toronto, but Blackwell has been a fantastic addition to the Leafs' bottom 6. His speed and tenacity make him a handful on the forecheck, and for a smaller guy, he throws a lot of hits. Add in a little time on the powerplay and you've got a really well rounded player that was thought to be a throw in at the time of the trade.

Realistically, having Simmonds and Clifford on the ice isn't going to take a guy like Wilson off of his game too much. He's dealt with heavyweights in the past. What it will do is give the Leafs some assurance that Wilson and company in case the Caps decide to take liberties on the Leafs' skilled players. Simmonds and Clifford are among the toughest players in the NHL, and as Flyers' tough guy Zack MacEwen learned last week, Simmer can still throw down with the best of them.


Clearly Sheldon Keefe is expecting a heavy hitting game tonight, which works perfectly for him. He's been pushing the team to play a more physical style. Washington is a great team to measure against. We'll get a glimpse of just how playoff ready the Leafs are tonight.

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