Monday’s game was a frustrating one. Pekka Rinne decided to be that guy and stop everything, Auston Matthews had chance after chance leading up to an overturned goal via offside review, and the narrative has again returned to what is wrong with William Nylander.
Mike Babcock went to his old bag of tricks after reuniting Matthews and Nylander at even strength, and that won’t be the only throwback ahead of the New Jersey Devils game. The Leafs were sporting some new powerplay units that are amazing to look at on a screen. Don’t believe me? Here you go:
Looks like the Leafs have decided to change their power play after all.— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) January 9, 2019
New units today:
It’s not surprising to see Babs go for a slight alteration for the Leafs man advantage. Teams in the league, especially Nashville and Tampa Bay, have been able to keep the top unit at bay by clogging centre ice in the offensive zone to inhibit Mitch Marner’s playmaking. That’s not to say the strategy of the unit is flawed. A goal will be scored on the powerplay eventually but this is a good opportunity to shake things up a bit.
Matthews has spent the most time on the man advantage with Nylander since making his debut at grand total of 316:37 (via Natural Stat Trick). Of his 14 PP goals over the last two seasons, Nylander has gotten the primary assist on 9 of them and conversely, Matthews has returned the favour with 11 helpers (5 primary and 6 secondary).
The chemistry between the two stars has been on display for years and there is a lot of tape showing what they can do together.
Something else this does is spread the wealth a bit. Matthews and Nylander will likely get the weaker of the two penalty kill units and may have an easier time generating. But there is a downside to this which is explored waters in Leaf land: If Babcock evenly splits each unit then there are no worries. However, if the Marner-Tavares-Kadri-Kapanen-Riley group are out there and score quickly, there won’t be much of an opportunity for Matthews and Nylander to skate around. It seems greedy to complain about that, but it is something to think about.
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