The Toronto Maple Leafs had a practice this afternoon following their Game 1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Before the players got on the ice, we received a medical update on John Tavares. He is currently discharged from hospital and resting with his family, out indefinitely. This is probably the best news we could’ve received ~15 hours after the accident.
Update: later in the afternoon, John Tavares released a statement thanking everyone for the support.
So, the players took to the ice and we saw an obvious lineup change up front, and one that was a little unexpected.
Alex Galchenyuk is poised to face the team that drafted him in Game 2 of the series, while Pierre Engvall has returned to the lineup, replacing Riley Nash.
Pierre Engvall and Alex Galchenyuk look poised to join the #leafs Game 2 lineup following the John Tavares injury. Riley Nash practising as an extra.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2021
Then, we got the lineups, and we got a second surprise. There was a lot of speculation of who would be the second line centre. Nylander for yet another playoffs? Kerfoot, who did it last night? One of the wingers? Jason Spezza maybe? Well, it turns out the pick was Nick Foligno.
#Leafs lines at practice:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 21, 2021
Extras: Hutton, Marincin, Dermott, Brooks, Nash
While some reveled in their clairvoyance, others were left asking if Nick Foligno has ever played centre? I asked Twitter friend and Columbus Blue Jackets expert Alison Lukan if this is something she’s seen Foligno do. Her answer: “it’s not his natural position but he can do it.”
Sometimes. It’s not his natural position but he can do it.— Alison (@AlisonL) May 21, 2021
The Leafs didn’t have any good options for a faceoff guy that can play centre, but that’s not as much of a priority compared to having a player that can play up the middle of the ice, support the defense, facilitate the puck going from defense to offense, covering the middle of the ice against rushes, and working in the middle of the offensive zone. Foligno fits a little more than half of those boxes, so good enough, I guess.
And if you do care about faceoffs a lot, William Nylander was 57% this season.
One last thing of note, Jack Campbell was absent from practice, with Frederik Andersen and David Rittich on the ice. We have no reason to suspect this is anything more than rest and recovery from Game 1 in order to get him ready for Game 2. We don’t think he suffered any injury during the game, and he was very good in net and far from losing the starting job.
Quotes from the players:
Rielly: "A tough feeling not having John around. But we have to go out tomorrow and change the narrative. The expectation is we have guys who can embrace bigger roles."— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) May 21, 2021
Morgan Rielly on John Tavares: "We're playing for him."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2021
Morgan Rielly spoke with John Tavares this morning: "We're going to be thinking about him every day."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2021
Auston Matthews says John Tavares sent a group text last night saying he was doing better— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 21, 2021
New linemates Alex Galchenyuk and Nick Foligno putting in extra work after practice pic.twitter.com/HK4CrmToHv— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) May 21, 2021
Kerfoot said it took the Leafs a few minutes to get into last night's game, and was quickly contrite that should not have happened on such a big playoff stage.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) May 21, 2021
Jason Spezza said he stayed close with John Tavares on the ice last night because Tavares was confused but able to pick up his voice. "I just tried to keep him calm."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2021
Sheldon Keefe said John Tavares suffered a concussion— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 21, 2021