The Maple Leafs featured a new look at practice today, as Mike Babcock made major changes to the team’s lines. Connor Carrick and Josh Leivo look to be on their way into the lineup in place of Roman Polak and Dominic Moore, and Patrick Marleau moved to centre.
Leafs practice lines— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 31, 2017
Leafs practice D— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 31, 2017
Carrick is reunited with Jake Gardiner after finding success as a duo last season. Morgan Rielly is finding success next to Ron Hainsey thus far, and Babcock chose to keep this pair in tact. The new duo of Andreas Borgman and Nikita Zaitsev looks quite strong for a third pairing, and the backend appears to be much more balanced.
Toronto’s first forward line is dominating the competition so far this season, and Babcock saw no reason to break this line apart. Leo Komarov moves back to Kadri’s left side, and this would represent a major opportunity for Josh Leivo. Katya speculated on moving Marleau to centre earlier today, and this came true quite quickly:
Babcock said before #Leafs didn't acquire Marleau to be a centre, but after losing four of five, putting the vet in the middle makes sense— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) October 31, 2017
I was hoping for a line of James Van Riemsdyk, Patrick Marleau, and Mitchell Marner, but Connor Brown will get the first opportunity in this spot. Instead, Marner and Bozak will make up two-thirds of a unique fourth line, which is a bit surprising considering that Babcock has often opted for more of a defensive centre in this role in the past.
I am optimistic that these new lines will be able to help the Leafs generate more secondary scoring at five on five. I am a big fan of these defence pairs, although I would like to see Marner flip with Brown up front to fully capitalize on his playmaking ability. It appears as though the Leafs will run these lines tomorrow night against Anaheim, but maybe Babcock got Halloween mixed up with April Fools!