Even without their future captain, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still a formidable hockey team.
If you’re anything like me, you woke up to the news this morning that Auston Matthews will miss the next four weeks with a shoulder injury. The announcement comes after the 21-year old had his shoulder re-evaluated in the days following a bruising hit by Jacob Trouba in Saturday night’s Toronto Maple Leafs-Winnipeg Jets game.
Now let me preface all of this by saying this is not good for the Maple Leafs. Matthews was leading the team in scoring and was on pace to have his best season as a Leaf so far. The loss of #34 will result in a lineup change where a new centre will anchor the third line while Nazem Kadri and John Tavares will have new line-mates. The injury could keep Matthews out for 14 games, including the Leafs’ California road trip (November 13th-16th) as well as two matchups with the Boston Bruins (November 10th in Boston and November 26th at Scotiabank Arena).
But, and hear me out on this, while the loss of Matthews is a blow to the team, the Maple Leafs have the depth, offensive firepower, and goaltending to get through this.
The New Lines
A huge question for the Maple Leafs now is what will the top two lines look like, seeing as how the Leafs play the Calgary Flames at 7:00 P.M. tonight. The obvious choice is to move Tavares to the top line and Kadri to the second, but that does leave some questions as to the #3 and #4 centres and what wingers will join each line.
DailyFaceoff.com has Tavares with Hyman on his left and Kasperi Kapanen on his right while Kadri has Patrick Marleau on his left and Mitch Marner on his right. Personally, I would like to see the Tavares-Marner connection continue on the top line, but having Marner on the second line with Kadri and Marleau seems like a good way to get both men’s momentum going. On the third and fourth lines, Daily Faceoff has a third line of Andreas Johnsson-Par Lindholm-Connor Brown and a fourth line of Josh Leivo-Frederik Gauthier-Tyler Ennis.
Looking over all of the lines, it goes to show you just how deep the Maple Leafs are offensively, Matthews’ injury does cause a bit of a shakeup but none of these lines seems out-of-place and could easily be the normal Maple Leafs lineup in a world where they didn’t draft Matthew’s in the first place. The depth shows how far this organization has come over just a few short years and will be able to make up for the absence of their superstar.
Andersen Must Be The Man
But if the offence takes a dip, which it very well could, Frederik Andersen is going to have to step up. We saw how good Andersen could be in the two games against the Jets, where he stopped 60 shots and allowed only 4 goals (2.00 GAA, .933 SV%), including a 38 save performance on Wednesday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to need Andersen to be the $5 million goalie they know he is. If the Leafs start scoring only two or three goals a game, Andersen will need to play on his head and make sure that six-ounce, frozen piece of hardened rubber does not find its way to the back of the net.
The Toronto Maple Leafs WILL Get Through This
Two years ago, an injury to Auston Matthews would have been a rough go around, especially given the Toronto Maple Leafs’ depth up the middle, but now his injury won’t completely derail the team. The Leafs are 8-3-0 and have a very good chance to make it 9-3-0 against the Flames tonight. The offense should continue clicking, even with the new lines, and if Andersen can create a stretch of strong play in net, the Maple Leafs should be able to survive the next four weeks.
Rest easy Leafs Nation, these aren’t the Leafs from 2014, they can handle the tough road ahead.