Tyler Bertuzzi has scored just twice in his last 29 games
Photo credit: NHL

Sheldon Keefe playing a key role in Tyler Bertuzzi's struggles

Published February 6, 2024 at 1:54 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs fell to the New York Islanders 3-2 last night thanks to a pair of defensive miscues, which has become somewhat of a norm for this team. However, the second line of William Nylander, John Tavares and Tyler Bertuzzi played one of their best games of the season together. While they didn't capitalize at 5-on-5, the trio combined for 13 shots on goal and had dominant stretches of play that saw them hem the Islanders in in their own zone for extended periods of time.

Tavares scored for the second straight game after going 10 games without a point, but Nylander has not scored since January 20th and Bertuzzi hasn't scored since December 27th. As a whole, they have all struggled the past month, but Bertuzzi's struggles have been magnified. He has just 2 goals in his last 29 games, but it may not have anything to do with gripping his stick too tight or not getting chances, but rather how Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe is using him.

Alex Hobson of The Leafs Nation did some digging and found that most of Bertuzzi's success has come from being close to the net. Hobson noted that all 14 of Bertuzzi's goals the past two seasons have come from in front of the net and half of his 30 goals from the 2021-2022 season were scored from within that area as well.

Among Leaf forwards, Bertuzzi has the second highest high-danger chances for, behind only Nylander, and leads the team in high-danger goals for when he is on the ice. Since the beginning of January, the Leafs' powerplay has struggled, converting on just 9 of 39 opportunities and although Keefe has threatened changes to both units, we have yet to see any changes occur.

After last night's debacle that saw the Islanders score seconds after their penalty expired in the second period, maybe we will get those changes. One of those changes should be to put Bertuzzi in front of the net on the top PP unit. Not only would it provide a more balanced two units, but it will very likely help the Leafs break their powerplay struggles and help Bertuzzi put some pucks in the net.

Bertuzzi is at home in front of the net where he has to battle and compete, which is why Brad Treliving signed him on July 2nd last summer. Unfortunately, Keefe's ignorance of how to use him effectively is not only costing Bertuzzi money in a contract year, but costing the Leafs on the scoreboard and in the standings.

February 6   |   838 answers
Sheldon Keefe playing a key role in Tyler Bertuzzi's struggles

Should Bertuzzi be moved to the first PP unit?

Yes, it would help him and the powerplay51961.9 %
No, the first unit should stay loaded31938.1 %
Latest 10 stories