Tyler Bertuzzi admits to struggling right now, discusses his reunion with Tavares and Nylander

Dean Chaudhry
January 20, 2024  (10:53)

Tyler Bertuzzi skates over to embrace Morgan Rielly after a goal in Dallas
Photo credit: Sportsnet

Sheldon Keefe intimated last week that he was going to be experimenting with forward Tyler Bertuzzi's spot in the lineup. He wanted to get his game back on a roll and was curious to see where he fit best within the Leafs' lineup. After spending some time in the bottom six, it looks as though he will be returning to the second line alongside William Nylander and John Tavares tonight in Vancouver.

Bertuzzi's offensive woes have been a topic of discussion for weeks as the free-agent signee has just 6 goals and 19 points in 43 games this season. After a 4-year stretch that saw him score 85 goals and 194 points in 271 games for the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins, the expectations were rather high once he signed in the summer.
He has just one goal in his last 24 games, and in that stretch, he has added just 9 additional assists. When asked if he was maybe gripping his stick too tightly and trying to force plays out there in the midst of the slump, Bertuzzi didn't hold back:
"Yeah probably a little bit, yeah. Going to try to go to the net, get a greasy one and work from there."

Following Friday's practice, Bertuzzi also touched on being reunited with Tavares and Nylander again:
"I love playing with them. John's a workhorse and Willy just does his thing. We kind of feed off of him and our chemistry has slowly gotten a little better and I feel good."

As for Keefe, he seemed lost for words in his presser but it feels like he truly believes that this might be the best trio he can put out there for Bertuzzi to get out of his slump. Tavares is the workhorse and Nylander is the offensive dynamo who sets everything up:
"I just think he's done a good job there most of the season. When those guys have bene together, they've been a really good line for us. They've been at their best. I thought Bert, in that spot yesterday, that he did a really good job for us and it's a good fit. Willy really likes playing with him."

As Keefe pointed out, it may very well be Nylander pushing to have Bertuzzi back on his line. Some players just feel more comfortable playing with certain teammates, and when he and Bertuzzi were playing together, we saw perhaps the best of Nylander. However, when Bertuzzi was removed from his line, we saw an uncharacteristic dip in his play, as Nylander went 4 straight games without registering a single point.

It remains to be seen if the reunion will work out, but the Maple Leafs are surely exhausting every option to find the best spot for Bertuzzi this season and the 2nd line might very well be it.

20 JANVIER   |   841 ANSWERS
Tyler Bertuzzi admits to struggling right now, discusses his reunion with Tavares and Nylander

Where is the best spot for Tyler Bertuzzi in the Leafs' lineup?

2nd line with Willy and JT25830.7 %
Top line with Auston and Mitch9010.7 %
3rd line with Domi and Jarnkrok28934.4 %
Try him on the 4th line at this point20424.3 %
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