Sheldon Keefe Makes a Big Statement About his Lineup for the Playoffs

Julien Trekker
April 1, 2023  (10:29)

After securing a playoff spot for the 7th consecutive season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are set to enter the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals with home-ice advantage, facing off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of last year's first-round matchup.

With 8 games remaining, Toronto is 4 points ahead of Tampa Bay for 2nd place in the division, ensuring home-ice advantage for at least the first round.
Despite the uncertainty of the next 8 games, the Leafs have a comfortable 4-point lead and 2 games in hand.
Could this be the year the Maple Leafs finally advance past the first round of the playoffs, a feat they haven't achieved since 2003-04?
Their chances look promising, as Tampa Bay isn't playing at the same level as the past years.
Toronto bolstered their roster before the trade deadline by acquiring Ryan O'Reilly, Noel Acciari, Jake McCabe, Sam Lafferty, Luke Schenn, and Erik Gustafsson, while Tampa Bay focused on Tanner Jeannot.
The Lightning, however, possess extensive playoff experience and a formidable offense, along with Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal.

Sheldon Keefe Makes a Big Statement About his Lineup for the Playoffs

Awaiting the return of x-factor Ryan O'Reilly, coach Sheldon Keefe revealed that he already has a playoff lineup in mind, stating:
"I do, if the playoffs were to start today or tomorrow. But a lot can happen over (the final) 8 games, whether it's injury or performance. Until we have all the information, there's no need to solidify anything."

Sheldon Keefe's mental preparation and flexibility are evident as he waits for the final 8 games to play out before finalizing his lineup.
O'Reilly's versatility as a winger or center allows for various combinations. Before his injury, he played with Mitch Marner and John Tavares, a lineup that could be revisited.
Currently, Marner is paired with Auston Matthews, while William Nylander has rejoined Tavares in the top-6.
As Keefe mentioned, the priority is to have O'Reilly healthy and back in the lineup.
A top-6 featuring Matthews, Marner, Tavares, O'Reilly, and Nylander is enticing, but for balance and depth, the team may opt for a powerful trio of Matthews as 1C, Tavares as 2C, and O'Reilly as 3C.
Whatever lineup Keefe and the Leafs choose, they hold a slight advantage with the return of former Conn Smythe winner O'Reilly as they seek to avenge last year's Game-7 defeat.
As seen on Maple Leafs Daily -
Sheldon Keefe makes a surprising comment about the Leafs' playoff lineup with 8 games left to play
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Sheldon Keefe Makes a Big Statement About his Lineup for the Playoffs

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