5 Reasons Why the Toronto Maple Leafs Are Going to Win More Than 1 Round

Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens
Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
4 of 6

More Balanced Offense

Coach Sheldon Keefe has recently experimented with spreading the star power over three lines, instead of the usual two, and the results have been surprisingly good.

Since the advent of the “Core 4” many seasons ago, it was rare that any of Auston Matthew, Mitch Marner, William Nylander or John Tavares played regularly on the third line.  There has always been lots of tinkering amongst the top two lines, but those four guys were always within the top 6 forwards.

The thinking seemed to be that it would be an insult to a high-scoring star forward to be “demoted” to the third line.  Psychologically, it probably made sense.

This year, an age-related decline in the play of captain John Tavares, along with a recent extended injury period for Mitch Marner, allowed Keefe to split Matthews, Nylander and Tavares across three lines. 

This also created more opportunities for players lower down on the depth chart to get a chance to skate with the top players.  This has certainly contributed to the increased scoring we’ve seen from guys like Bobby McMann and Max Domi (see next section).

What this means for the upcoming playoffs is that it will be that much harder for opposing teams to simply focus on shutting down the top 2 lines of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  By creating various third line combinations with scoring punch, the Leafs could present real matchup difficulties this year for opposing coaches.