Will Coach Keefe’s Lack of Lineup Changes Prove Costly in Game 5?

Ahead of Game 5, the Toronto Maple Leaf’s coach Sheldon Keefe lineup changes have been made during today’s media availability. The lack of changes has left some fans wondering why the staff decided to essentially play the same lineup as Game 4, where the team showed a lack of urgency. During the media availability today, Keefe had this to say: 

One of the changes being made for Game 5 was Justin Holl out, and Timothy Liljegren would be in. Based on Liljegren on the last pair alongside Mark Giordano being very stable for the team during the first two games, the Coach has made up his mind, and Holl will come back in. If Holl and Giordano can play at their best and be a good shutdown pairing, then there shouldn’t be an issue, but with the inconsistent play of Holl this season, it makes it hard as a Leaf fan. Keefe has openly said that he thinks Holl is their best penalty killer and has played the hard minutes against the top units all year long, so he is confident in his play. It is also known that some advanced stats point toward Holl being a reliable defenceman for the Maple Leafs, so we will see how Game 5 shakes down with the same Defensive unit being put out there. 

Other lineup changes that were made were minor, but the 12 forwards consist of the same 12 guys that played in the last two games in Tampa. The forward’s lines look like the following:

Although now a lot of changes, there are a few key takeaways from these lines, and the first one is the Bunting back with Matthews and Marner. This line has been really good throughout the season, and some considered it one of the best lines in the league towards the end of the season. This seems like a move to ensure that the Matthews line gets started early, and with them already having a ton of chemistry, it will help them get comfortable with their possessions early in the game. The other takeaway from the projected lineup is that William Nylander and John Tavares are split up again, and that one is a surprise to me with how they produced in the 3rd period of Game 4. Nylander has taken some slack for some lazier plays in Game 4, but I would almost put Tavares down on the “3rd line” with Kerfoot and Engvall and put Nylander on the “2nd line” with Kampf and Mikheyev. It is known that in Toronto, there isn’t truly a major difference between the 2nd and 3rdline based on ice time, but I think that could send a message to Tavares and force him to get going.  

Only time will tell how the lack of changes in the lineup will affect the team, but this seems like almost a must-win for the Leafs, to not only hold the lead in the series but also to keep their mentalities positive heading into Tampa for Game 6. 

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