The Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup Is Coming Into Focus

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The inconsistent nature of the Toronto Maple Leafs has continued in recent games, but look closely, and positive signs are beginning to emerge regarding their lineup.

A couple of lineup decisions by Toronto maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe were necessary, sooner than planned, and the initial returns suggest that the experiments should continue.

An ineffective start by newcomer Tyler Bertuzzi on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner meant a switch to Calle Jarnkrok. That move also failed to ignite the first line’s 5 vs 5 production.

Bertuzzi and Jarnkrok’s imperfections led to the insertion of young Matthew Knies on the first line. It was the right move since Knies’ skillset is that of a first-liner.

Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup Coming Into Focus

The move of Knies, along with a couple of others, might be the tonic to lift the Leafs out of their early season doldrums.

It didn’t take long for Knies to make an immediate impression playing with Matthews and Marner. Not even four minutes into the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he showcased his skill.

Receiving a pass from Marner, he batted the puck out of mid-air, then deftly maneuvered within a tight space to deposit it behind Lightning goaltender Jonas Johansson.

It was the first of many smooth plays he made alongside the superstars throughout the night. With the skill, Knies also brings adept forechecking, board work, and strength on the puck.

It’s understandable to have concerns about a rookie having that spotlight and pressure playing with the team’s two top players. Yet, Knies has passed every test since arriving late last season.

The Leafs should roll with him on the top line for the foreseeable future. Other options haven’t worked. Give the kid an extended run.

Keefe’s other move was to place Max Domi at centre for the third line. His wingers were recent call-up Nick Robertson and Jarnkrok.

This trio was the Leafs second-best line against the Lightning. They scored the tying goal in the third period. Domi started the play with Jarnkrok depositing a juicy rebound off a quick Robertson shot on goal.

Domi was more visible, for the right reasons, than he had been all season. He and Robertson are offensive players and displayed some cohesiveness that is worth exploring.

The dearth of secondary scoring has been an ongoing problem through the first dozen games of the year. Goals from elsewhere, other than Matthews, Marner, Tavares, or Nylander, are a must.

Domi’s switch of position seemed to inspire him. Robertson’s enthusiasm to finally find full-time work with the Leafs might unlock a third line that can contribute to the scoresheet.

The last, but equally important, lineup change was inserting Joseph Woll into the net. He keyed another comeback victory over the Lightning.

At this point, he has overtaken Ilya Samsonov as the Leafs best option in goal. He should see the bulk of the work, other than perhaps back-to-back games, for the next few weeks.

Samsonov needs a reset plus Woll has earned it with his play.

The Toronto Maple Leafs still require help on defense and a capable fourth line that can play without the fear of being scored on.

Yet, recent moves have given hope to a renewed, dominant first line at 5 vs 5 play and a third line that can help offensively. Woll is solidifying their goaltending.

Next. Looks LIke Keefe Will Get Canned. dark

It’s a start to solving some of the Toronto Maple Leafs problems.