With the news on Friday night that Nazem Kadri will miss three games with a suspension, we all have to rethink how the Leafs can fare against the Boston Bruins.
Andreas Johnsson is set to draw into the lineup on the fourth line, Leo Komarov is to move up to the Matthews line, bumping Zach Hyman to a new second line centered by Patrick Marleau.
Johnsson also practiced on the first power play unit on Friday.
How much do you hate Leo Komarov on the Matthews line, and do you think it will last?
Fulemin: Not, like, terribly. Komarov might provide some defence and sandpaper and Matthews-Nylander remain intact to work their magic. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s fine. I think if Mathlander really struggle in Game 2, though, you might see Hyman back there pretty quick.
Brigstew: Hate it a decent amount and don’t think it will last. With Kadri out I assume all hands will be on deck, and Babcock will try whatever it takes to get back in the series — starting with this Leo on the “top” line experiment. Unless it actually works I don’t think he’ll stick with it in all situations.
Hardev: I get why they’re doing it. I think it’ll be really easy for Babcock to switch Komarov with Andreas Johnsson in the offensive zone. He’s zone something similar with Komarov and Kadri (rip) before “The Awakening”.
Katya: I’m not sure it’s going to last, but I don’t hate it, which is as enthusiastic as I can get. Matthews is the guy now, the one and only C who can play big minutes against Bergeron. I’m not really clear who else can help, and I like Hyman with Marleau and Marner.
Arvind: I’m not a huge fan of it... I just think Leo is too much of a non-entity on offense to help Matthews/Nylander, while simultaneously not being good enough defensively against elite competition to really make a difference there. I think we’ll see something different in game three.
seldo: It was practice, so it’s not great but I’m not inclined to take it as gospel. Maybe we’ll see it in the game to start but that doesn’t mean it’s a permanent solution.
Can Johnsson have a big enough impact on the power play to help offset the loss of Kadri?
Fulemin: Strictly on the powerplay, yeah. The Leafs have an embarrassment of riches there and Johnsson is perfectly capable. Kadri at EV is a devastating loss for us though.
Brigstew: He did at the end of the regular season so.... hopefully?
Katya: This is the part of this deal I like. Johnsson is genuinely gifted at the PP. Getting him on the ice for that role is a plus.
Arvind: It obviously hurts, but Johnsson has had excellent results on the power play so far, and he’s as good a replacement as we have for Naz. He’s not at that level, obviously, but I think he’ll be good enough that the Leafs power play will still be very dangerous.
seldo: Not 100% but it’s a good addition to the PP in his absence.
Species: Those thighs. I have seen them in person, and they are ginormous. It explains his incredible acceleration and how he can fly down the ice when he gets going. A common play on the Marlies was to set up Johnsson or Kapanen with a strecth pass to give them a breakaway for a shot on goal. Of course, that doesn’t work quite as often in the NHL as teams know to watch for that setup and sometimes can adjust in time to break it up. Also, they have to get on the power play first. Losing Kadri’s nack for drawing penalties will reduce the number of power plays they have to begin with.
Marleau at C in the playoffs, how do you feel about that?
Fulemin: It was this or Nylander, so okay, I guess? I regret the necessity of it but in the circumstances I think it’s a defensible move.
Brigstew: I assume this will be like the Leo on the top line experiment... if it works, sure. If it doesn’t, I’m guessing Nylander or even Moore will be experimented with the rest of this series.
Katya: Not great, but then I am the person who has been boring the masses about centre depth for what seems like years. I wouldn’t try Nylander, not without a total line overhaul.
Arvind: Not great, but I also wouldn’t feel that confident in Nylander or Plekanec playing C against the Bruins on the road, so... blame Naz for his stupid hit I guess.
seldo: Working out of necessity as the team seems to think Dominic Moore is done as a player. I mean if they’d rather shift a winger to C than dress a scratched C....
With Babcock expressing dissatisfaction with Toman Plekanec, Komarov and Kasperi Kapanen against the Bruins top line, how will they be used with Johnsson in place of Komarov?
Fulemin: Babs might try to keep them away from Bergeron, but the fourth line is going to be a fourth line, especially with Kadri out, and Cassidy still has last change. I think the usage will wind up being similar; our best hope is that Johnsson and Kapanen can exploit some openings with speed.
Brigstew: A fourth line not faring well against arguably the best top line in the NHL? The devil you say! I assume they’ll now be used in a more sheltered, offensive role rather than trying to use them as a back up shut down line. Which might be better, to be honest.
Katya: Not much, is my answer, unless they bounce back hard. The point here of this balanced lineup is to get Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk into the offensive zone. They need to be scoring. You can’t waste favourable matchups on the fourth line.
seldo: Probably about the same. Start in the D zone, get it out, get off the ice.
How would you handle Bergeron’s line at home? Hard match? With whom?
Hardev: I would throw Matthews on him and two of Komarov, Hyman, and Brown. The thinking is you lose your best player in a hope to shut down their best player and hope depth wins out in the end. Throwing two of the three hardest working — and defensive — wingers on the roster with him will hopefully neutralize the relentlessness of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak as well as essentially maximizing depth everywhere else in your lineup. Depth is how you win games late in the playoffs when you have injuries and the top players are all essentially even. That world is coming a little bit earlier for the Buds. Hopefully the following group is better than their group.
Komarov - Matthews - Hyman
Marleau - Nylander - Marner
JVR - Bozak - Brown
Johnsson - Plekanec - Kapanen
Brigstew: The Leafs have never really effectively shut down that top line, so I’m of two minds on what to try now. Option one: throw all your “defensive” guys against them as a sacrificial lamb and just hold on for dear life, so something like Komarov - Plekanec - Hyman or something, and let your offensive players try and feast against the Bruins’ depth. Option two: go all speed against them and see if that can disrupt them a bit more, so something like Johnsson - Marleau - Kapanen — two rookies against their top line? LOLNOPE! So maybe try and swap in Marner? LMAOCOMEONBRUH! Okay fine Hyman - Marleau - Kapanen.
Katya: Auston Matthews, this is your team, make of it what you will. He has to take this job even if he’s not ready for it. The days of being protected by Kadri’s line are over.
Arvind: Without Naz, our best option is to hope Matthews figures something out and can go toe to toe without getting murdered.
seldo: Put Matt Martin on the ice and teach the Bruins whats what.
Fulemin: I’m with Katya. Matthews and Nylander have to swim in the deep water now.
If Brian Elliott can come back and beat the Penguins, the Leafs can beat the Bruins. What else gives you faith the Leafs can make this a series?
Brigstew: While writing this I just saw Teoscar Hernandez, a Blue Jays rookie with more strikeouts than Marc Bergevin’s draft choices, hit a go-ahead double late in the game against Andrew Miller, who dominates the Blue Jays so much he once won a playoff series MVP — AS A RELIEVER! If the Jays can rally like that, so can the Leafs!
If the Leafs can actually win a draft lottery and get Auston freaking Matthews, they can actually win this series.
If Peter Chiarelli can still be an NHL GM then we truly live in a world of miracles where anything can happen.
If Fulemin can keep all his answers in this roundtable under 3,000 words, the Leafs can keep the Bruins to under 2 goals per game the rest of the series.
Fulemin: This totally unwarranted statement of Brigs’ reminds me of several anecdotes from the American Civil War—
Katya: If a seventh round pick can make the NHL, the Leafs can beat the Bruins with him on the ice.
If Ben Smith can turn out to be OMG #actuallygood, the Leafs can beat the Bruins. (Ben Smith leads the Marlies in points with 59.)
If JvR can keep his mouthguard off the ice for a whole game, the Leafs can beat the Bruins.
If the Orlando Solar Bears can beat the best goalie in the ECHL after the Marlies poached their best forward, the Leafs can beat the Bruins.
seldo: It’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ll never let me down.
Fulemin: If an army of a mere three hundred warriors of Sparta can stop a host of ten thousand at Thermopylae—oh, shit, they all died, didn’t they? Damn. Okay, the Leafs won the Auston Matthews lottery at a 20% shot, they’ve probably still got at least a 20% shot now.
Arvind: Whether you lose 5-1 or 2-1, you’re only down one game in the series. The Leafs are one stolen game away from being in a very strong spot in the series... It’s time to be concerned, but we shouldn’t panic yet.