Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs: Game 5
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: Scotiabank Arena
Channel: CBC, SN, NBCSN
On Wednesday. the Toronto Maple Leafs had an off day from the ice after a successful back-to-back. The players and staff were available to the media after some off-ice meetings and treatment, along with the first sighting of John Tavares since his terrifying injury. JT has been in constant contact with his players since the injury, giving them words of encouragement, directions of focus, and praise following each win. He spent the day “reacclimating with the group.”
Today, Tavares was on the ice doing some light skating and skill training well before practice was set to start. Nick Foligno joined him.
John Tavares is back on the ice at Scotiabank Arena. pic.twitter.com/yB2Lauyn82— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 27, 2021
Incredible that it was just a week ago that John Tavares went through that scary scene in Game 1, and he’s already back at it pic.twitter.com/03K6gLtMip— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 27, 2021
There’s a lot of talk about the timeline for Tavares’ return so soon after the injury. We all want to make sure Tavares is complete recovery and take his time, and I’m sure some of the hesitancy to think of his return to the lineup comes from still trying to process what happened in the first place — surely he needs more time. It was a scary incident that definitely hasn’t left my mind, for sure. But there is a timeline developing, and him skating today doesn’t mean he’ll be playing next week.
Elliotte Friedman laid out his reporting on the situation in a tweet. As you can see, the Leafs incredible medical staff along with Tavares’ people (presumably starting with his family and agent) will be making sure he’s on the right track. If there’s one team that doesn’t rush their players back from injury too soon, it’s the Leafs.
Potential next steps for Tavares: light exercise, increasing intensity of workouts one day at a time -- if he's ready for that. May include light skating in coming days. As it is a concussion, will be handled with tremendous care by TOR medical staff and Tavares’ own people https://t.co/1tEWArCBYS— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 26, 2021
Speaking of not rushing back too soon, Nick Foligno is still a game-time decision for the Leafs. On some other teams, he probably would’ve played in Game 4, but it was agreed upon that he would sit and make sure what was holding him back was properly dealt with.
William Nylander has done an amazing job stepping up in the absence of both Tavares and Foligno, running the show on the second line with revelation Alex Galchenyuk and Swiss Army Knife Alex Kerfoot. The three have developed quite the chemistry after a couple games together.
While it might be worth considering keeping this line together after Foligno comes back, I think there’s a case to be made that a line anchored by Nylander can probably play with anyone and the overall philosophy shouldn’t be compromised. With the Winnipeg Jets* on the horizon, the top-six might need a different arrangement to get the most out of them.
Against Montreal, so many Leafs have been really good there aren’t any wrong answers when it comes to the lineup. From Galchenyuk and Kerfoot stepping up into the top six, to Pierre Engvall anchoring the third line, to Adam Brooks making an impact on the fourth, things are going really well. Of course, it’ll all change if/when the Leafs meet the Jets*, a team that has different strengths and weaknesses, and a different approach to the game.
Sheldon Keefe on #Leafs trying to win first-round series:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 26, 2021
"There is a reason why it's been this many years. Closing out a series is a very difficult thing to do, and we respect that greatly, respect our opponent. Tomorrow night's game is gonna be the hardest one of the series."
Toronto Maple Leafs
In terms of the lines, morning skate has revealed that Rasmus Sandin is back in the lineup, while Adam Brooks keeps his job on the fourth line.
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Alex Galchenyuk - Alex Kerfoot - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - Pierre Engvall - Wayne Simmonds
Joe Thornton - Adam Brooks - Jason Spezza
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Zach Bogosian
Lines from last game.
Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher
Tyler Toffoli - Nick Suzuki - Cole Caufield
Paul Byron - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Josh Anderson
Joel Armia - Eric Staal - Corey Perry
Ben Chiarot - Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson - Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak - Jon Merrill
Artturi Lehkonen and Jake Evans are not traveling to Toronto with the Canadiens.— Arpon Basu (@ArponBasu) May 26, 2021
GO LEAFS GO