The Maple Leafs sans Mitch Marner will finish up their regular season tonight against the Winnipeg Jets (8 p.m. EST, TSN 3&4).
Despite their current LTIR situation complicating matters, it appears the Leafs have found a way to rest one of their top players tonight, as Marner will sit out in preparation for the playoffs and Adam Brooks will draw back in.
This was the only possible move the Leafs could make tonight given their cap complications. Marner has certainly earned the rest, appearing in all 55 games, playing a massive all-situations role for Toronto, and leading all NHL forwards with an average 22:26 TOI/game.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Keefe carefully managed the minutes of his other top players the team isn’t able to rest, which could mean Brooks, Pierre Engvall, or Alex Galchenyuk receive greater ice time opportunity as Keefe finalizes who will be on the outside looking in come Game 1 on Thursday.
As for the top guys, it’d be awfully nice if they could get something to go right for themselves on the power play tonight and restore some degree of confidence in the man advantage before the real games start. It could make for a fresh new look on the top unit without running it through Mitch Marner on the right half-wall — particularly if it’s a dual shot-pass threat such as William Nylander that’s tried out there in Marner’s place.
As the Jets prepare for their series with Edmonton beginning on Wednesday, Paul Maurice is attempting to prepare his top forward group in the event that Nikolaj Ehlers is unable to play in Game 1.
One of the top two lines, Connor-Schiefele-Wheeler, has played over 200 minutes together this season, while the other has Pierre-Luc Dubois on the right wing. Maurice has suggested Dubois is very comfortable on the right side, which gives them the opportunity to move Paul Stastny in his natural center spot and elevate Mathieu Perreault into a bigger five-on-five role on the left wing.
Both teams will be starting their presumptive playoff starters tonight as it will be Jack Campbell vs. Connor Hellebuyck in net. Despite his team’s inconsistency in recent weeks, Hellebuyck has two shutouts in his last three games and remains the premiere starting goalie in the North Division. Jack Campbell has recovered extremely well from his minor blip in mid-April, going 6-0-1 in his last seven games and giving up only 13 goals over that span.
Game Day Quotes
Justin Holl on dealing with a five-day break before the playoffs begin on Thursday:
[It’s] odd. I know we’re anxious to get going.Wwe’re going to get started a little later than everyone else, but that’s okay. We’ll get a couple days of practice and some recovery time for guys that are nursing injuries, and we’ll be good to go.
Holl on what he expects from tonight’s game:
This is an important game to just have the right systems in place, be playing the right way, and just have confidence going into the playoffs. I think it’s going to be a competitive game even though, standings-wise, there isn’t a lot to compete for obviously.
Paul Maurice on moving Pierre-Luc Dubois to the right wing:
That conversation happened a long time ago and it was about where he was most comfortable. Centre ice is his most comfortable position, but he came into the league basically as a winger. It wasn’t on his wing — it was on his off-wing. He’s far more comfortable on the right than he is on the left.
The genesis of this is wanting to get Perrault back on the left. I’ve got complete confidence that Andrew Copp is going to come back to our lineup. I amnot sure whether [Ehlers] plays Game 1 or not. We’ll know in the next couple of days.
Maurice on how these two teams will approach a meaningless final game:
There is almost — this is going to sound terrible for hockey — a gentleman’s agreement. I don’t think you’re going to see any late hits. Both teams are getting ready. There will be a certain amount of respect on the ice.
Sheldon Keefe on how his team has evolved this season from the last:
I think consistency is a big one. That’s how you end up finishing first in the division — you have to have a greater level of consistency than the teams you’re competing with, so that’s impressed us.
A lot of it comes through the increased depth of our team and, most importantly, the comradery of the group and the energy of the group. The guys are excited to come to the rink every day. They really enjoy being around each other, and you can feel that as a coach — whether it’s meetings, practice days, being in the building on the ice, or on the bench.
I think what really drives consistency is that level of comradery. There’s a sense of responsibility and accountability that comes with that.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#12 Alex Galchenyuk – #34 Auston Matthews – #77 Adam Brooks
#71 Nick Foligno – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#47 Pierre Engvall – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #65 Ilya Mikheyev
#97 Joe Thornton – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#55 Ben Hutton – #23 Travis Dermott
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#31 Frederik Andersen
Extras/Taxi: Rasmus Sandin, David Rittich, Mitch Marner
Injured: Zach Bogosian, Riley Nash, Zach Hyman
Winnipeg Jets Projected Lines
#85 Mathieu Perreault – #25 Paul Stastny – #13 Pierre-Luc Dubois
#81 Kyle Connor – #55 Mark Schiefele – #26 Blake Wheeler
#21 Dominic Toninato – #17 Adam Lowry – #82 Mason Appleton
#12 Jansen Harkins – #11 Nate Thompson – #23 Trevor Lewis
#44 Josh Morrisey – #2 Dylan Demelo
#24 Derek Forbort – #4 Neal Pionk
#64 Logan Stanley – #8 Jordie Benn
#37 Connor Hellebuyck (starter)
#30 Laurent Brossoit
Injured: Nathan Beaulieu, Nikolaj Ehlers, Andrew Copp