Observations on Sheldon Keefe's Recent Player Usage for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Sheldon Keefe Continues to Make Baffling Decisions
Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs
Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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The Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers had a potential showcase of what is to come in the first round of the playoffs when the two squared off Monday night at Scotia Bank Arena.

Despite giving up three goals in the third period, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to hold on for the victory, even with Sheldon Keefe making some peculiar in game decisions.

It was just a couple weeks ago, but Sheldon Keefe finally made the decision to take T.J. Brodie out of the line-up, however, due to several injuries on the back end including Morgan Rielly, Timothy Liljegren and Joel Edmundson, the veteran defenseman finds himself back in game action.

While much of the talk during the game was the superb pass that Brodie made to Auston Matthews for his 61st goal of the season and led to him earning the game belt after the game, not enough is being discussed about how he struggled in his own end.

All game long in the defensive zone Brodie struggled with the heavy forecheck of the Florida Panthers which led to the Maple Leafs opponents first goal of the game. While shorthanded, despite having time Brodie failed to ice the puck, instead buckled under the pressure and handed the puck over which led to a Brandon Montour tally.

The Panthers got back in the game with three goals in the third period, two with Brodie on the ice. The first goal, was after he left the far side post which was the only threat at the time which he not only left Sam Reinhart open for the goal, but he also knocked his own goaltenders stick out of his hand.

The fourth goal by the Panthers can not be completely blamed on Brodie, but he did go out to block the shot but failed to do so, which intead caused a partial screen. In total, he was on the ice for three of the four Panthers goals, yet Keefe put him out there for 23:42, second most of any Maple Leafs player.

Keefe Has No Trust in the Young Players

Unlike Brodie, Keefe has zero trust in Nicholas Robertson and on Monday night, Pontus Holmberg and Matthew Knies joined Robertson. The three played less minutes than Ryan Reaves despite the trio scoring a pair of the teams six goals.

In Keefe's defense, the youngest line on the team was on for two goals against in the third period, however, the first was defensive breakdown which was caused when Conor Timmins fell behind the net and the Panthers capitalized. The second was the above mentioned goal where Brodie knocked Ilya Samsonov's stick out of his hands.

Keefe spoke before the game about throwing the young players into tough situations, then immediately benched them.

Ryan Reaves Receives Increased Ice-Time

Speaking of trust, Keefe appears to be liking the game that Reaves is bringing each night and to be fair, the Maple Leafs enforcer has looked adequate since returning to the line-up in late January. However, with two minutes to go against a team you are chasing and with a two goal lead, there is no reason to put him out there.

However, Keefe needs to be careful where he uses Reaves, especially in tight games. With two minutes to go and the team up by a pair, the hulking winger found himself on the ice against the Panthers top players which helped Florida being the game within a goal on Sam Bennett goal.

Matthews Setting Records

Auston Matthews continues to set new team records as he scored a pair of goals to give him eight in his last ten games and set a new franchise record with 62 goals in the season.

It may be too little to late to reach the 70-goal mark, however, the Arizona product is three goals shy of tying Alex Ovechkin for the most goals in a season since Mario Lemieux scored 69 back in 1995-96.

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The former Hart Trophy winner collected three points total on the evening to give him 640 for his career trying him with Ron Ellis for sixth in franchise history. Next up is George Armstrong who sits at 713 for his career.