What's old is new, as the Leafs abandon failed experiment

Published January 31, 2022 at 12:49
BY RYAN SMITHERAM
It was short lived as the Leafs' experiment of having 3 offensive lines appears to have come to an end at today's morning skate. The Leafs reverted back to their old lines this morning, going back to how they finished the game Saturday night with Auston Matthews centering a line with Michael Bunting and Mitch Marner. William Nylander found himself back beside captain John Tavares and Alexander Kerfoot, with Keefe also reuniting David Kampf and Ondrej Kase with Ilya Mikheyev. Engvall, Spezza and Simmonds continues to be the fourth line of choice, with Nick Ritchie skating as an extra once again.

It wasn't a large sample size for the three lines of spread out offence, but from what we saw Saturday, all three lines were able to maintain pressure and create chances in the Detroit zone. Unfortunately, they were just unable to capitalize on them.

As Keefe said earlier in the week, it's the healthiest they've been up front this season and it gave him the opportunity to try something he had been wanting to try all season. Given the circumstances of the game, it made sense as to why Keefe reverted back to what has worked in the past, but I would not be surprised if we see some experimentation with the top 3 lines in games moving forward if Keefe feels the team needs a boost or momentum shift. In particular, the Bunting - Matthews - Kase line was fantastic in winning battles for loose pucks and controlling the cycle in the Detroit zone.

The New Jersey Devils, the Leafs' opponent for the next two games, are typically a "trap" or 1-2-2 defensive style team, so it would not come as a shock to see the 58/34/25 line put together tonight at points for more of a dump and chase style of forecheck if the Leafs become stagnant in the neutral zone.


With only two games this week before the All-Star break, I would expect Keefe to take a deeper dive into the video and underlying statistics of those lines to see what worked well and what other combinations he could use after the break.

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