It’s approaching recreation one, and everyone seems to be beginning to discuss what the Leafs must do to beat the Bruins. The widespread theme is shutting down the Bergeron trio, however that’s a lot simpler stated than finished contemplating that may be the strongest line in all of hockey.
That stated, when Toronto goes up towards a juggernaut of a line or an all-world participant, we all know who Babcock is often going to name upon to be the reply: Nazem Kadri. When the Leafs go to Boston on Thursday night time, there’s little doubt they’ll go together with a plan to laborious match the Kadri line towards that killer unit of Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand.
But with some returns from damage and a little bit of tinkering, the Leafs’ lineup has modified and develop into optimized within the final variety of weeks, so what does that basically imply? The deployment Kadri has taken on the final variety of occasions these groups performed has modified in a reasonably large means, and it brings with it some questions on how Babcock will roll issues out this time round. Perhaps extra importantly, it leaves us questioning how he would possibly swap issues up and transfer some star gamers across the lineup in-series ought to issues not begin off so scorching. Kadri will doubtless be the rock of the roster on this sequence, however how he’s surrounded may get fluid.
It might sound overly easy to have a look at a single recreation when previewing two division rivals about to go to struggle for what might be seven, however I wish to convey issues again to late February when the Leafs and Bruins performed on Hockey Night in Canada. In my eyes it was one of many higher performances Toronto turned in all yr towards a high notch contender, and with the best way Babcock approached it, there are positively some concepts to tug from it, particularly because it pertains to subsequent week’s video games on the ACC the place they’ll get the matches they need.
Looking again on the shift chart for that recreation, the story that emerges is fairly easy by way of coping with the Bergeron line: Babcock feels issues out along with his high two pairings towards that trio, Marchand scores a pair, then he settles right into a Zaitsev-Gardiner laborious match from the again finish, whereas the Kadri line is thrown to the wolves all recreation. (I gained’t submit the entire chart right here as a result of it’s monumental, however the at all times helpful HockeyStats has what you’re searching for.)
Fortunately for Toronto, Babcock’s plan again then works out splendidly and so they truly come out forward in that matchup – each Leafs participant is a constructive in shot-attempt share for that recreation at evens, and the Bergeron line truly will get pushed on its heels just a little total.
So this appears easy, no? Just throw Kadri and the 22-51 pairing up towards these guys and let the opposite strains hopefully get the best of Boston’s remaining lineup. It’s labored previously.
Not so quick. Because the factor is, in that February recreation the Kadri line wasn’t what it’s now. It was the previous line flanked by Marleau and Komarov, whereas Marner moved as much as play on with Nylander in Matthews’ absence.
So how does this alteration issues? What appeared like a line that might be used purely in a shutdown style with Komarov now as an alternative has the group’s main scorer and one of the offensively dynamic gamers league-wide within the second half of the season taking his place. Yeah, issues are totally different.
As such, Babcock can strategy issues a couple of methods.
Power on Power (Matthews Edition)
If you contemplate the highest two strains basically a wash by way of functionality or give the Matthews line a slight edge, you might roll out that line towards Boston’s best and let the remainder kind itself out. This opens up the Kadri line to probably be your gamebreaker goals-wise, and permits the group’s hottest participant, Marner, to go to work rather less hassled.
Power on Power (Kadri Edition)
It’s tough to declare the Matthews line as your true best-on-best line as a result of Marleau-Kadri-Marner is pretty much as good or higher. They’re nearly inter-changeable and that’s implausible for the Leafs. Rolling out Kadri to care for enterprise like he often does however this time alongside a a lot stronger supporting forged looks like a no brainer, and that’s very doubtless the best way issues will begin (neatly).
But in the event you purchase into needing a bodily man like Komarov to go up towards Boston’s high unit, maybe leaving Marner there to probably get dragged down offensively is one thing that raises some concern for you. (For me personally, it doesn’t)
That brings us to our third choice.
This isn’t going to occur, or not less than not originally of the sequence. The strains, as of at the moment, are unsurprisingly set as the next:
But ought to the Leafs get down within the sequence or have a tough time producing a lot in methods of offence, we may see one thing like Komarov being “promoted” and Marner being moved off that line, maybe bumping Brown down the lineup (which I wouldn’t suggest) and even lining up with Pleks and Kapanen himself which might be a line that has quite a lot of offensive punch for a “fourth” (higher concept, in my view).
This is a little bit of a nuclear choice and I actually like the primary two higher, nevertheless it’s not that tough to check one thing alongside these strains if issues get off to a rocky begin.
For my cash, the best strategy will be merely rolling the Kadri unit (Marner in tow) out the best way they’ve been previously, supported by the Gardiner-Zaitsev pairing. I can nearly assure that’s the best way issues will begin off on this sequence, however once more, that Bergeron line gained’t be dormant and will nearly certainly give the Buds a headache in some unspecified time in the future if not immediately. If that’s the case and the sequence begins to get away from the Leafs, who is aware of, then issues may get bizarre.