Maple Leafs trio celebrating a goal scored against the Minnesota Wild
Photo credit: Dan Hamilton - USA Today Sports

Sheldon Keefe reveals projected lineup for the Leafs ahead of Game 1

Published April 19, 2024 at 4:34 PM

On the eve of the first game of the postseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs rolled into practice with what may very well be their Game 1 lineup, but there were several absences and key alterations made from their last game of the season.

The Maple Leafs were in an unenviable position to end the regular season; they were either going to have to play the Florida Panthers or the Boston Bruins in the first round. In the end, the Bruins slipped from 1st in the division to 2nd, bringing about the Original Six matchup that has destroyed the hearts of Leafs fans for years.

How does the projected lineup for Game 1 differ from the group that the Leafs finished the season with?

For starters, William Nylander and Bobby McMann were not present for practice earlier today with Keefe indicating that they are both "possibilities" for Game 1, but was also advised by general manager Brad Treliving to keep injury updates at a minimum.

What, exactly, is ailing Nylander we might never know but his end-of-season slump is making a lot more sense now. He had 39 goals and 93 points in his first 69 games before finishing off the regular season with 1 goal and 5 points in his final 13 games with a minus-3 rating. He fell just shy of his first 100-point season and looked out of touch for almost a full month.

On the bright side, Max Domi returned to practice and declared himself ready for Game 1 after having missed the final 2 games of the season. The injury was deemed as "undisclosed", but it was more so a precautionary measure than anything else. He returned to the top line alongside Auston Matthews and Tyler Bertuzzi at practice on Friday.

Domi didn't have the best start to his Leafs tenure but he finished on a high note and formed a solid partnership with Matthews, notching 20 points in his final 25 games.

With Domi returning to his spot on the first line, that means that Mitch Marner will be separated from Matthews as he was seen skating alongside John Tavares and Matthew Knies. Pontus Holmberg was centering Calle Jarnkrok and Nick Robertson, while David Kampf, Connor Dewar, and Ryan Reaves rounded out the forward group. When asked about the decision to keep Matthews and Marner split, Keefe said that the choice was made a few weeks ago, indicating that perhaps they want to see each player carry their respective lines.

On the back-end, the Maple Leafs ran with 5 different pairings, however, it seems more and more likely that Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie could be sitting out the series opener. Morgan Rielly was paired up with Ilya Lyubushkin, Simon Benoit remained with Jake McCabe, and Joel Edmundson and Timothy Liljegren rounded out the top-6. Both Giordano and Brodie were seen as the fourth pair, all but indicating the shocking decision.

As for the goaltending situation, mum is the word as is usually the case when the post-season comes around. When asked about Boston not revealing their starting goaltender, Domi quipped back by saying "Did we reveal ours?" When a reporter responded "no", Domi closed quipped "there ya go. Welcome to the playoffs."

It's slightly different when it comes to Boston because they own arguably the best tandem in the sport with Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. The former posted a 25-10-8 record with a 2.53 G.A.A. and a .916 SV% while the latter backed him up with a 22-10-7 record, a 2.57 G.A.A., and a .915 SV%. The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, will live and die with Ilya Samsonov - barring unforeseen changes - but the sentiment remains.

The Maple Leafs will surely hope that Nylander and McMann are both ready for tomorrow night. Should they both be sidelined - especially Nylander - they will have to rely heavily on their other core players in Matthews, Marner, and Tavares to keep the offense afloat against a Bruins team that swept the Maple Leafs in the regular season.
April 19   |   522 answers
Sheldon Keefe reveals projected lineup for the Leafs ahead of Game 1

Is William Nylander's questionable health status concerning to you with Game 1 looming?

Yes, we need Willy26550.8 %
No, next man up15229.1 %
Ask me again before Game 210520.1 %
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