Sheldon Keefe faces crucial lineup decisions for Thursday's game

Graham Montgomery
February 14, 2024  (8:29 PM)

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe with captain John Tavares at practice
Photo credit: Sportsnet

Tuesday night was an interesting game for the Maple Leafs. Morgan Rielly missed the contest as he was serving the first game of his suspension. John Tavares and Mitch Marner both were out due to illness.

Despite this, the Leafs managed to win the game.
The team went into the contest short staffed but it did not stop them from establishing themselves as the better team Tuesday night. The team came out with a convincing 4-1 victory helped largely by the emergence of Bobby McMann, who recorded his first career NHL hat trick with his 3rd, 4th, and 5th career NHL goals.
The performance helped put McMann back on the Leafs radar after he spent a long stretch serving as a healthy scratch for the team. Due to his strong play, as well as that of other forwards, Sheldon Keefe now has some difficult decisions to make regarding Thursday's game against the Flyers.
Due to the fact that so many of the Leafs' top players were out last night, Sheldon Keefe had to get a little bit creative when setting his lineup for the game. He ultimately tried unique line combinations as well as new powerplay units in the contest. JD Bunkis from Sportsnet's The FAN590 "Leafs Talk" discussed these changes with co-host Sam McKee where they ultimately agreed that some of these new looks were quite promising.
"It would be a damn shame if Sheldon Keefe just went back to the status quo. I thought tonight, there was two big things. One is maybe when Tavares and Marner come back, you keep that Domi, Bertuzzi, Robertson line together and you decide to mix up the other pairs. The other thing was, and I know they didn't score, I loved that powerplay with Domi and Bertuzzi on it. It was just moving around and looked totally different... I thought it looked completely different tonight when they were setting up and if I was Sheldon Keefe... maybe you do have two powerplay units. Maybe you break it up and see if you can get something new and get something from Domi or Bertuzzi on special teams."

However, the head coach is unlikely to go with the same lineup when Tavares and Marner return. Obviously those two players would bump two other forwards out of the lineup. Bobby McMann likely deserves to stay after his clutch performance, so that means players like Alex Steeves and Ryan Reaves could find themselves coming out of the lineup. However, it seems that Keefe may get another chance to play the same lineup anyways as both Tavares and Marner were to ill to practice with the team today, putting their status for tomorrow night's game in question. If anything, William Nylander may join them as he is also apparently dealing with an illness.
Sheldon Keefe says John Tavares, Mitch Marner & William Nylander "not feeling well enough to have it make sense to come in today ... they'll try & get some food down & see where they're at tomorrow"

Be sure to tune in tomorrow night to see what kind of roster Keefe creates as the Leafs host the Flyers.
As seen on Maple Leafs Daily
Sheldon Keefe has a tough decision to make with his forward lines for Thursday's game
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Sheldon Keefe faces crucial lineup decisions for Thursday's game

Do you think Keefe should stick with the same lines he used against the Blues?

Yes42148.3 %
Only if Tavares and Marner are still out33638.6 %
No11413.1 %
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