Morgan Rielly will finish serving his suspension tonight against Arizona
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Insider reveals why the Leafs are so good without Morgan Rielly in the lineup

Published February 22, 2024 at 8:38

The Toronto Maple Leafs were in Arizona last night to take on the Arizona Coyotes in what was the final game of Morgan Rielly's five-game suspension. Surprisingly, the Leafs went 5-0 without Rielly in the lineup and since 2018 have compiled a ridiculous 30-11-4 record when he is not in the lineup. Yesterday, on "The Real Kyper and Bourne" show, Nick Kypreos and Justin Bourne debated why the Leafs are so good without Rielly in the lineup and Kypreos' reason is surprisingly sensible.

"It's not exactly a small sample size here, it's significant... I think they are more disciplined without Rielly," said Kypreos of the Leafs' blueline without Rielly. "I think it's just the fact that they know who they are back there and they aren't trying to do anything out of the ordinary. No one is trying to be a Morgan Rielly and skate coast-to-coast. You'd think you could convince these guys to be as disciplined (when Rielly is in the lineup). There is only one green light here and it belongs to Morgan Rielly. I don't know if it's contagious that once one defenseman sees Morgan have a bit a freedom to go behind the net or jump up in the play or pinch that everyone goes along for the ride as well."

Without Rielly, the Leafs have given up an average of 2 goals per game and have played as well defensively as they have all season simply because no one is trying to do too much. The emphasis on not doing too much was noted by Justin Bourne who went on to say that the Leafs had a couple of defensemen the other night against St. Louis that were happy to just chip the puck off the boards and out. One of them being Marshall Rifai, who made his NHL debut against the Blues.

It was also something Sheldon Keefe noticed and pointed out in his post-game comments the other night calling Rifai very solid and mentioning that there was nothing that stood out as a mistake.

With Rielly set to return Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights, the hope is that the Leafs defensemen continue to play to their own strengths and keep things simple in an attempt to extend their winning streak to 6 games.

February 22   |   602 answers
Insider reveals why the Leafs are so good without Morgan Rielly in the lineup

Has Morgan Rielly played to your expectations this season?

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