Sheldon Keefe betting big on the Matthews, Bertuzzi, Domi line

Mike Armenti
April 15, 2024  (10:31)

Tyler Bertuzzi and Auston Matthews chat during practice
Photo credit: Sportsnet via Hockey Patrol

It appears as though Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe is really backing his horses, as he doesn't have any plans of separating his top line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Auston Matthews and Max Domi.

Back on March 7th against the Boston Bruins, the Leafs suffered not only a disappointing 4-1 loss to a heated Atlantic Division rival, but they also lost franchise winger Mitch Marner to what was reported as a high-ankle sprain. Obviously, this left Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe in a precarious position. After all, it's not exactly easy to replace a guy like Marner. However, sometimes unforeseen circumstances can create opportunities, and for Keefe, that meant trying something a little unorthodox.
Rather than searching for the simplest answer, which would have been to shift William Nylander up to the top line, Keefe opted to try Matthews between Bertuzzi and Domi. Surprisingly, it worked, and the trio of Bertuzzi, Matthews and Domi really began to click.

Moving Max Domi from center back to the wing has been a bit of a catalyst for the Leafs

Domi had been used a lot down the middle of the ice this season, most often centering the Leafs' 2nd or 3rd lines with mixed results. However, since moving up to the top line Domi has been racking up the points, showing tremendous chemistry with his linemates - Matthews in particular.
Dating back to March 20th against Washington, Domi has produced 12 points, Matthews has produced 23 points, and Bertuzzi has produced 10 points, combining for a total of 45 points in a 13-game span. Over the weekend, Sheldon Keefe revealed that he has really enjoyed the trio, intimating that the new-look top line is here to stay.
"Obviously the way things have come together here with Auston and Max and Bert, that's a real thing. This is not just a short-term thing. That's a real thing that gives our team a completely different look. We've been wanting to give that time and you look at other things, you know, for me, you're trying to balance getting chemistry and continuity."
- Keefe on his new-look top line

Bertuzzi, Matthews, Domi has been a very versatile group for the Maple Leafs

The line has a little bit of everything. We all know of Matthews' exploits. The resident sniper is all but a lock to score his 70th goal of the season this week, provided Keefe doesn't sit him for each of the final two games of the season. We have also seen the emergence of Max Domi as a legitimate playmaker. Matthews recently called Domi one of the most underrated passers in the league, which isn't exactly a stretch given what we've seen from him in recent weeks. Not only are these guys a formidable trio on offense, but when the games get chippy, Bertuzzi and Domi are right in the thick of things as well, causing chaos for the opposition. Lines like this one are the reason why this Leafs team just feels different.
The effectiveness of the Bertuzzi, Matthews, Domi line has also allowed Sheldon Keefe to spread out his talent, running John Tavares and Mitch Marner on the 2nd line and allowing William Nylander to take up mantle on the 3rd line, creating nightmare matchups for the opposing team on a nightly basis. The Leafs also have solid depth at all positions and have plenty of bodies to plug-and-play in the event of an injury. Keefe seems to like the group that Brad Treliving and company have assembled.
"Whether it's guys that are being in game one or some of the guys that are out, we've got some good options that have all performed very well and we'll use [all 82 games] to sort it out. What you see as of late is sense of how we see it going forward."
- Keefe on his versatile lineup

Sometimes it can take awhile to find a consistent group that works, especially when you have multiple bodies coming in and out of the lineup each week. For Keefe, though, he sems to have found a combination of players that he's comfortable with in just about any situation. With just 2 games remaining, we are not likely to see a lot of deviation by the sounds of things, except that the injury to Bobby McMann, if serious enough to force him to miss significant time, will result in Keefe needing to elevate someone to play 2nd line LW. Someone like Nick Robertson, for example.
It will be interesting to see what Keefe's opening night roster looks like for the 2023-24 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there's one thing that we seem to know for sure, which is that the Bertuzzi, Matthews, Domi line isn't going anywhere.
15 AVRIL   |   328 ANSWERS
Sheldon Keefe betting big on the Matthews, Bertuzzi, Domi line

If there are no injuries, will the Auston Matthews, Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi line remain together for the entire playoff run?

Yes23270.7 %
No9629.3 %
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