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Desperation or Necessity? Toronto Maple Leafs Make Big Line Changes

Toronto Maple Leafs

Scott Logush

Editor-in-Chief

After starting the season 10-6-3 and going 5-3-2 in their last ten and currently standing fifth in the Atlantic, the Toronto Maple Leafs are back to shuffling lines and the Matthews and Marner duo have been split up for the first time this season, according to TSN reporter Mark Masters.

The big difference here is Marner dropping down to the second line and joining team captain John Tavares and William Nylander joining Matthews and Knies on the first line. Nylander has been the team’s most productive and best player, netting 27 points in 19 games and shattering the record for most consecutive games with a point to start a season in Toronto Maple Leafs’ history with 17 consecutive games to begin the 2023-2024 campaign.

Although Nylander has cooled off a bit, being held to no points in Toronto’s last two games, he’s six points ahead of Auston Matthews who is second place in the Leafs’ clubhouse. The structure of the Toronto Maple Leafs revolves around the idea of “our top six are better than anyone else’s in the league,” and that just simply has not been the case.

Early in the year they were able to outscore their problems of poor goaltending and lackluster defense, I still miss Freddie Andersen, but without the Matthews hat tricks the team has dropped an incredibly winnable game against Chicago and lost the Dubas Bowl in Pittsburgh.

The core four of Matthews (-1), Marner (-3), Nylander (+3), and Tavares (+1) are a combined net zero in plus minus. The current “top six” with Bertuzzi and Knies bring the total up to +5. Overall the team needs more out of the players making the most money, and maybe the shakeup brings a much needed spark.

Toronto will be tested as their next few games include the Florida Panthers, Seattle Kraken, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Nashville Predators and New York Islanders. With Keefe making this move to try and create a spark, I wouldn’t call it desperation yet. This is what Keefe does, he shuffles the lines to try and find some matchups that work, but the constant changing does make finding chemistry a struggle and the early connection between Tavares and Nylander is now split.

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