Predicting the Toronto Maple Leafs' Starting Lineup for Game One of the 2023 Playoffs

Published March 12, 2023 at 12:27

The 2023 playoffs are still a month away, but Leafs fans are already speculating what the lineup will look like for game 1.

A lot of things can change the lineup for game 1, therefore it is impossible to predict what lineup the Leafs will use for the playoffs. That fact won't stop fans from making their predictions.

Before going into our prediction, here is the 2022 playoffs roster, for reference.


Extra: Aston-Reese, Simmonds

Nylander has proven himself to be the Leafs undisputed MVP this season, so it is no surprise to see him with Bunting and Matthews on line 1. It is a possibility that Nylander may be swapped out for Marner, if Keefe decides to throw off the opponents, or decides that swapping the two would be best for whatever team they may be playing. Matthews is having a bit of a down year and Bunting is experiencing some troubles, having both fit for the postseason would be extremely beneficial for the Leafs.

When O'Reilly was added to the roster, he played with Tavares and Marner. This proved to be a great line, O'Reilly is a very versatile player, so he might be put into the third line, but his chemistry with Tavares and Marner leads us to believe that the Leafs will keep that line together.

This lineup assumes that the Leafs will be able to sign Knies. If they cannot get Knies Kerfoot would take his place on the 3rd line and Aston-Reese would take Kerfoot's spot on the 4th line. This 3rd line is vastly different in comparison to last year's playoff line. The Mikheyev-Kampf-Engvall line worked during the regular season, they did not do well in the playoffs, Mikheyev scored two empty netters, and Kampf was the only one on the line who scored a goal on a goalie. The Leafs do not want a repeat of last year, which leads us to believe they will change this line for game 1.

Since being traded from St. Louis, Acciari has been quite useful on the 4th line. Lafferty's speed, forechecking and his physical play make him a valuable addition to the 4th line. Kerfoot is a luxury given his $3.5 million salary.

Aston-Reese has been useful this season, and Simmonds' locker room presence has been integral. This comes as no surprise that they will stay in the lineup. The Marlies are doing well in the AHL playoffs, so they will not be sending anyone to join the Leafs until their playoffs are done. If the Marlies get eliminated early, Steeves, Holmberg, and McMann could get called up.


Extras: Schenn, Gustafsson, Timmins

The Defensive pairing we saw on Tuesdays game against the Devils, showed us a sneak peek at the defensive lines the Leafs may use for the playoffs.

Rielly has been struggling this season, so it is no surprise that he may be paired with Liljegren should help him. Liljegren has really developed well this season, and should appear on line 1. However, Keefe does not trust him fully yet, they might pair Rielly up with Brodie or Schenn for game 1.

Brodie and McCabe played well against the Devils and were a key part in helping the team win. McCabe has been a good replacement for Muzzin while also being under a 2-year contract for $2 million. We can expect this line to be used if Toronto wants to defend a late lead.

Holl has been criticized lately for his frequent mistakes, but Leafs coaches seem to have faith in him and he will likely play in a majority of the games. Holl and Giordano have been a pretty good pair, so they will likely stay together for the playoffs.

Shenn's sandpaper playstyle and his reliable presence make him a very good choice as Torontos 7th defenseman. He played a similar role with Tampa Bay, which helped them win the Cup twice in 2020 and 2021. Gustafsson has been struggling since being acquired, his offensive skills and effectiveness on the power play make him better than Timmins, who is still relatively new.

Benn and Mete were called up a few times earlier this season, but due to injuries have not appeared recently, they will likely be called up if the Marlies are eliminated early in their playoffs.



Who will the Leafs choose to start in the playoffs? The answer depends on if Samsonov can stay reliable and Murray can avoid injuries.

Samsonov will likely start game 1, especially if the Leafs can secure home-ice advantage due to his effectiveness at the Scotiabank arena. Murray is the only goalie out of the trio who have won a Stanley Cup. Murray has 2 rings to show his experience, and will be a valuable replacement if Samsonov is struggling. Woll can easily slide in if needed.

Special Teams

Power-Play Unit 1

Power-Play Unit 2

Unit 1 is still pretty much the same line since the 2018-19 season when Tavares joined the team. This line can be frustrating to watch, given the fact that they spend too much time waiting for the perfect opening to shoot the puck. The Leafs powerplay is the third-best in the NHL, so something must be working for them.

Keefe can imporve this line by encouraging Rielly to pinch in when he has the puck. His shot from the point is too predictable for goalies, he could instead be closer to the goalie for his shot, which is way more likely to go in. This one small adjustment could improve this line significantly.

It seems that Toronto has not put much thought into creating their second unit. It appears they just threw it together.

Penalty Kill Unit 1

Penalty Kill Unit 2

These short-handed units do not take into account that Keefe has the tendency to throw out a third one, which would likely include Kampf and Jarnkrok.

The Leafs currently sit in 13th place in the league for penalty kill, with an 81.15% rate of success. This is certainly an area that could use improvement. The addition of O'Reilly, Lafferty, Acciari, and McCabe will certainly help. Scheen could also be beneficial on penalty kill due to his good stay-at-home defensive skills.

The Leafs are currently tied for 11th in shorthanded goals, Lafferty currently leads the league with 4 shorthanded goals. These units should help limit the amount of shots taken at Samsonov and Murray during the penalty kill.


When comparing this lineup to last year's lineup. It is clear that they have a superior lineup for this year's playoffs, and they should be able to make a deep run this year.

This lineup is purely a prediction, and assumes that everyone will stay healthy and will be ready to play for the playoffs.

It seems that Dubas has given the team an excellent roster that should give them a very good shot at the playoffs this season.

March 12   |   459 answers
Predicting the Toronto Maple Leafs' Starting Lineup for Game One of the 2023 Playoffs

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