A Stretch Run Checklist For the Toronto Maple Leafs

With a little over a month to go in the NHL regular season and less than twenty games, the Toronto Maple Leafs have time to get their house in order before the Stanley Cup playoffs.

New York Rangers v Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Rangers v Toronto Maple Leafs / Chris Tanouye/GettyImages
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The end of the regular season is fast approaching for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the rest of the NHL playoff contenders.

After finishing a busy stretch of four games in six nights with a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the Leafs have less than twenty games left on their schedule.

The Leafs have a better than 99% chance of making the Stanley Cup playoffs, and they are extremely likely to face the Boston Bruins or the Florida Panthers in a first-round matchup.

It is a seemingly foregone conclusion that the Leafs will encounter one of those two Atlantic Division powerhouses to start the postseason. The NHL trade deadline has passed and the roster is more-or-less set, but the Leafs have lots of things to sort out over the remaining month of the schedule.

The Leafs Must Determine Their Best Forward Line Combinations

Recent maneuvering by head coach Sheldon Keefe saw John Tavares bumped down the lineup to center the third line. Max Domi was moved up to the second-line center to play alongside William Nylander and Tyler Bertuzzi.

In his new role, Tavares broke a prolonged slump of scoring a 5 vs 5 even-strength goal. With Bobby McMann and Calle Jarnkrok on the wings, the Leafs have a more dangerous third line.

The problem with the Tavares-Domi shuffle is the potential defensive shortcomings of the newly formed second line. None of Domi, Nylander, and Bertuzzi are known for their defense or are capable of being a defensive conscience for a line.

Matthew Knies has spent the most time on the left wing with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and is likely to remain there.

The remaining schedule must be used to determine the best fourth-line combination and if there is a spot for Nick Robertson in the opening night lineup for the playoffs.

David Kampf, Pontus Holmberg, Ryan Reaves, Noah Gregor and new addition Connor Dewar will be competing for spots on the last forward unit. The most defensively responsible from this group plus those that can solidify the Leafs anemic penalty killing should take priority.

Robertson's energy and offensive potential are hard to ignore, but inconsistency and Keefe's lack of trust in him defensively are keeping him from regular duty.