Act I The Players are Contrite
20 minutes before official practice start and already a dozen Leafs out here including Matt Martin. #tmltalk— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) October 27, 2017
Martin, was slightly injured in the loss to the Hurricane’s last night. He finished the game, and didn’t play any less than he usually does, but now we see that even though he is likely feeling it, he’s there working extra hard, setting the example.
And the ominous music plays, as we realize that James van Riemsdyk might still really be feeling it.
Act II The Lines are Rearranged
The defence is exactly as in the last game, and after two outings Roman Polak and Andreas Borgman have been okay, and certainly weren’t the problem against the Hurricanes.
The forwards got a new configuration.
Lines at Leafs practice— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 27, 2017
Fehr was reported to be playing some fourth-line wing as well. The “it ain’t broke” Auston Matthews line remains unchanged at the top. Mitch Marner seems to be back with Tyler Bozak with Patrick Marleau in lieu of van Riemsdyk.
The more interesting line is last year’s checking line back in it’s old configuration with Leo Komarov on the left and Connor Brown on the right of Nazem Kadri. As soon as you remove one of the extra left wings, this all becomes so much easier to lay out.
Will putting Marleau with Bozak magically fix what is broke, which is primarily his line primarily him on it? It likely won’t get worse, but who’s executing defensive zone exits there? Marner has your entry covered, that’s great, and Marleau is a good forechecker and can play in very tight to the net and score — not like van Riemsdyk, however. But who gets them out of the defensive zone and launches Marner at speed through the neutral zone? Going to have to be Jake Gardiner.
And there’s no more scoring coming from Kadri’s line in this configuration. But they collapsed like a house of cards against the Hurricanes, so they weren’t offering any defence either.
Somebody has to score other than the Matthews line and the power play. (Matthews and Nylander have a Goals For percentage at five-on-five of 80%. This won’t last.) They don’t pay Tyler Bozak for anything else, so, fair enough, fix the most broke thing first going. If this works, it’s genius. Marleau has a good set of results right now offensively.
If it ever happens, of course. James van Riemsdyk might be fine by tomorrow, and the too many left wingers problem comes back.
Act III The Coach is Not Amused
Weird end to Leafs practice— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 27, 2017
Babcock has assistants collect the pucks and players sent off
Players reluctant to address it in media session pic.twitter.com/ddt0Lxyhhg
To the video room! Don’t you wish you could go along and hear his video review of last night’s game?
To be honest, I’m not so amused either. I barely watched any of that game last night, but there is more than just talk to the idea that some of the players are not committing to the job at a level a team needs if they expect to win every game. That was obvious in the Ottawa game, and it was obvious last night as well.
And it’s not defence! Bozak’s results this year have been so poor with his usual line that the fourth line with Marner on it did better at Expected Goals For per 60 minutes (per Corsica Hockey). This isn’t about small samples or competition or whether we think that would continue. This is about how Marner with Matt Martin and Dominic Moore outperformed Marner with $8 million in scoring forwards. They shouldn’t be better at anything except alliteration.
We don’t get to see, even vicariously, the video review and meetings where they sorted out who needs to do what in the next game. We can only judge by the media scrums after, which is a strange deal where the actors get to review their own performances.
So is that all it was? Or is the real message that the work has to come on the ice in the next game.
We shall see. But this message was clear:
JvR available to play tomorrow? Babcock: "I don't know. I mean, Leivs is dying to play anyway."— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 27, 2017
No one is irreplaceable, and there’s other players waiting for a chance.
The real three act drama goes tomorrow night against the Flyers, a team with one hot offensive line almost in Matthews’ league.