The Maple Leafs are receiving a much-needed offensive reinforcement as they attempt to end their home-ice playoff losing streak and avoid a 3-1 series hole versus Boston (8:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet, CBC, HBO Max TBS, Tru TV).

Frustration is mounting in Toronto as the Leafs have struggled to score (again), struggled on special teams (again), and struggled on home ice (again) through three games of the 2024 playoffs. However, reason for optimism abounds as the Leafs anticipate the long-awaited return of William Nylander, who will slot onto an all-Swede third line with Calle Järnkrok and Pontus Holmberg. The hope is that the near-100-point scorer will provide a big spark to a line that has yet to record a point in the series — and to a power play that has converted on just one of 11 opportunities. 

A more controversial lineup change will take place on the fourth line, where Nick Robertson will skate alongside David Kämpf and Ryan Reaves, with Connor Dewar expected to sit. The fourth line had been very solid in the run of play through three games to the point where the Bruins were forced to shift the matchup in Game 2. In a series where rush opportunities and controlled entries are tough to come by (something Nylander should be able to help with), the trio of Dewar-Kämpf-Reaves has been simple and effective — highly disruptive on the forecheck retrieving dump-ins and a solid momentum generator for other lines.

The decision wasn’t easy, knowing Toronto’s offense has been slow. Robertson can change the game with one opening/one shot, and while he’s pointless thus far, he has had several quality scoring chances in the first three games. Dewar’s presence on the forecheck and (secondary) penalty kill are notable, and Robertson will need to bring some added juice offensively to justify Keefe’s show of faith.

Lastly, it appears as though TJ Brodie will draw into the lineup in favour of Timothy Liljegren. Brodie has battled through an up-and-down season and become a whipping-boy figure in Toronto this season, but Keefe’s bet is that the veteran defenseman can provide a little bit of help to the penalty kill and hold up against the forecheck a bit better than a less-than-100% Liljegren.

On the Bruins’ side of things, it appears the lineup will remain unchanged from their Game 3 victory, including (thus far) Leaf killer Jeremy Swayman remaining in the crease for the second consecutive game.

Maple Leafs’ Keys to Game 4

Via Anthony Petrielli

–  At home, and now with William Nylander in the lineup, will Sheldon Keefe continue to chase/force matchups? There is no need to insert Mitch Marner randomly for shifts with Auston Matthews. They have a three-line depth advantage. Don’t overthink it. Trust them to win their matchups and roll with it.

–  The Bruins’ power play has done a good job of bumping the puck low and looking for mini 2v1s. The Leafs‘ penalty kill needs to up the aggression and make better rotations.

– The Leafs‘ power play needs to move the puck faster and support each other better. Too often, there have been no passing options, and they’ve been too slow with the puck.

–  The focus is ultimately on scoring. A team like Colorado isn’t looking at the elite goalie and strong defense of Winnipeg and grinding through their games. They are blowing the Jets’ doors off offensively (the Avalanche were first in goals per game, and the Leafs were second). Toronto needs to funnel pucks to the net and get into the dirty areas.

Game Day Quotes

Brad Marchand on the Bruins’ points of emphasis in Game 3:

Everyone was very determined to lock down the neutral zone, play above their speed, and play behind them. We didn’t cheat any area of the game. We didn’t cheat the details. Everyone was determined to do their job, step up, and be big for the team—block shots, take a hit to make a play, or whatever it took. We executed at a high level. It is a recipe for success, and we have to replicate it in [Game 4].

It is not going to be easy. They are going to elevate. They have players over there who have the ability to take over a game in the series. We just have to make sure we are determined. We have to win our one-on-one battles. When you line up against a guy, you need to have the determination that you are going to beat them and win that matchup.

Usually, in these games, a minor mistake costs the game. The team that makes the fewest mistakes at this time of year usually wins the game.

Jim Montgomery on the flow of the series so far:

It is the hard part of a series, especially when you have two evenly matched teams: Who can win two in a row and really take control of the series? It hasn’t happened yet. It is a tough task. I liked where our team was at. I felt more people were business-like — as Marchand was — at the morning skate before Game 3.

Montgomery on whether the series is playing out according to expectations:

I don’t go into any playoff series expecting anything. They are unpredictable, and that is why they are so much fun. That is why fans love it. That is why players love playing it, and coaches love coaching it.

Tonight could be a 6-5 game. You don’t know. You just have to be prepared to play and stay present.

Sheldon Keefe on the expectation for the fourth line with Nick Robertson on the LW:

Just keep doing the things that they’ve been doing. Nick has to find his place on that line. We need Kampf and Reavo to keep doing what they have been doing and be themselves. I need Nick to be himself.

There is a reason why [Robertson] is remaining in the lineup. We think he can provide us with offense. Offense is hard to come by, and goals are hard to come by. I think he has done a good job in this series. It is not just that he has proven he can score over his hockey-playing life or in the regular season. He has done a good job in the series. He has found ways to create chances in low minutes. We think he can make a difference that way.

It was not an easy decision whatsoever. Dewar has done a tremendous job in his own place with what he have asked of him. Tough decision. We are preparing for Willy to play at this point, and with that being the case, you have to make a lineup change while weighing all of the different things. This is a look we want to go with.

You want that line to keep doing what they’ve been doing. It’s really important that Nick finds his way on it. Maybe the line can be even better.

Nick Robertson the key to fitting in on the fourth line:

Sticking to their strengths. They play a north, physical game. I think I can add my touch in the offensive zone and kind of stick to their process without the puck — being a little more physical and hard on pucks. I look forward to playing with them.

Jake McCabe on the physicality of the series:

We are doing a lot of the initiating. The guys are playing hard and physical lines one through four and all of the defensemen. We’re all playing hard. As we talked about with discipline, it’s about staying on that line and being in control of our emotions while continuing to push and drive that physicality.

Maple Leafs vs. Bruins – Series Shot Attempts and Heat Map

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines*

#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #34 Auston Matthews – #11 Max Domi
#23 Matthew Knies – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#19 Calle Jarnkrok – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #88 William Nylander
#89 Nick Robertson – #64 David Kampf – #75 Ryan Reaves

#44 Morgan Rielly – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#2 Simon Benoit – #22 Jake McCabe
#20 Joel Edmundson – #78 TJ Brodie

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#60 Joseph Woll

Extras: Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano, Connor Dewar, Conor Timmins, Noah Gregor, Martin Jones, Cade Webber

Injured: Bobby McMann

Boston Bruins Projected Lines*

74 Jake DeBrusk– #18 Pavel Zacha – #88 David Pastrnak
#63 Brad Marchand – #13 Charlie Coyle – #39 Morgan Geeke #
#21 James Van Riemsdyk – #11 Trent Frederic – #43 Danton Heinen
#19 John Beecher – #70 Jesper Boqvist – #61 Patrick Maroon

#6 Mason Lohrei – #73 Charlie McAvoy
#27 Hampus Lindholm – #25 Brandon Carlo
#29 Parker Wotherspoon – #22 Kevin Shattenkirk

Starter: #1 Jeremy Swayman
#35 Linus Ullmark

Extras: Matt Grzelcyk, Jakub Lauko
Injured/Out: Andrew Peeke, Justin Brazeau, Milan Lucic, Derek Forbort

*Note: At playoff time, with neither coach forthcoming on lineup decisions or injury situations, the final lineups won’t be known until close to puck drop.