Today at practice, the Bruins tinkered with their lines a little:
Prax lines:— Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) April 10, 2019
This is essentially the same as Monday’s lines, with Clifton seemingly winning the epic struggle for the last defence slot over Kampfer.
#NHLBruins spares are Backes (F), Kampfer (D): Injured: Ds Moore (skating, non-contact, not practicing) and Miller (not skating): F Kuraly (skating, non-contact, not practicing, no stick).— Mike Loftus (@MLoftus_Ledger) April 10, 2019
The Leafs lines looked very familiar as well:
#Leafs lines at practice:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) April 10, 2019
Garret Sparks was at practice today in Toronto because Michael Hutchinson was away for personal reasons. No one has suggested that Sparks is travelling to Boston.
UPDATE! now they have:
Garret Sparks says he’s going to Boston. So that answers that.— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) April 10, 2019
Mike Babcock said Garret Sparks is filling in for Michael Hutchinson while he and his wife welcome their child. The 10-day program Sparks is on continues after Hutch returns.— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) April 10, 2019
There were many questions put to Mike Babcock yesterday about line matching in this series, and his choice of where to put Nylander and Kapanen. He was a bit testy, so have a listen:
Key things here are that he’s not saying if that Kapanen and Nylander deployment is permanent. He’s also not saying it’s not. He’s not saying much, really, and it’s the playoffs, so what do you expect?
No one will like his defence of Ron Hainsey, and some won’t like his opinion on Jake Gardiner.
Bruce Cassidy is quoted as saying he’s prioritizing speed, which amounts to him sitting David Backes.
When it comes to linematching, the ball is in Cassidy’s court to begin the series, and as covered in the most recent episode of Back to Excited, we might have a situation where both coaches want to match Tavares to Bergeron, and we’ll see that for however many games it takes the Leafs to win this.
My speculation today is about the centres, however. The Leafs have three excellent centres and one who can’t be on the ice against the Boston’s average players, far less their top ones. There are a several options on how to deal with that.
- Nazem Kadri might take longer shifts and get some minutes with Moore and Brown.
- Auston Matthews might make the change out first to take over for the fourth line, and play some of their shift. This has happened quite a bit in recent games.
- William Nylander might take some shifts with the fourth line wingers as a centre. This has also happened at least once, and was immediately perceived as punishment, which it likely was not.
- The fourth line might just never play until the team is up by three goals.
- Brown will get some shifts with the Matthews or Kadri line when the Leafs are holding a lead.
Of course, as is always true of the Leafs, how the defence is actually used vs how the lineup card looks will be key. As Mike Babcock says above: He thinks Gardiner is good and he’s going to play him a lot. He’s also shown that he really trusts Muzzin and Zaitsev to hold a lead, and he likes Dermott and Rielly when they need to score. Expect to see game state dictate who gets minutes, not lineup order.
If today’s post-practice scrum is as interesting, I’ll post that later.