The Toronto Maple Leafs won their second-to-last preseason game last night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Toronto Maple Leafs superstar William Nylander led the way with two goals, including the OT winner.
The Leafs will play the Red Wings one more time before the season starts for real.
Then, Wednesday, they will take on the Montreal Canadiens in the first game of the 2023-24 NHL season.
What the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Look Like on Opening Night
Last night was a really good game for the Leafs. According to the stats, they completely dominated the game.
One thing I think is incredibly encouraging is that Jake McCabe had a 71% puck-possession rating last night. Coming off a weak playoffs, a strong McCabe could make the Leafs blue-line much better than it currently appears to be.
Balancing that out was the fact that Mark Giordano was absolutely pummeled. Now, this could be on Simon Benoit who was his partner, but a 25% puck-possession rating and a 15% Expected Goals Rating in a game where the Leafs otherwise dominated is horrible.
Last night’s forward lines were 3/4s excellent.
Knies-Fraser-Jarnkrok won their minutes, as did the Bertuzzi-Matthews-Marner line, and even the Kampf-Holmberg-Reaves line.
The line that did not? Domi-Tavares-Nylander. Now, Nylander scored twice, but both goals were on special teams. I’ve been saying this all along, and eventually the Leafs will find out that I am correct: Max Domi is not a top-six player in the NHL on a competitive team.
I have a strong feeling that the Leafs team we see on Wednesday is going to look very different from the one that they will enter the playoffs with in April.
This feeling is based on the fact that I have eyes and a memory, and that no NHL team* has ever won the Stanley Cup with a blue-line this bad (*not counting the few flukey winners who dined out on a goalie getting hot at exactly the right time). (stats naturalstattrick.com).
With that said, here is what I think is the best lineup the Leafs:
Knies- AM – MM
Bertuzzi – Tavares – Nylander
Domi – Minten – Robertson
Lafferty – Kampf – Jarnkrok
Rielly – Brodie
McCabe – Liljegren
Kokkenen – Klingberg
This isn’t a guess about what I think their lineup will be, because I know for a fact it won’t be this. This is just what I think they should do.
One thing we know for sure: Simon Benoit can’t help this team, and Mark Giordano – I’m sorry to say – probably can’t either.
The season starts on Wednesday and we’ll get a real look at the things we’ve now been talking about for three months! Go Leafs!