The Toronto Maple Leafs made sweeping changes to their lineup and they got the desirable outcome against the Washington Capitals.
Sometimes all it takes for a team to regain its identity even for a game is to shake things up and it looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs benefitted from Mike Babcock putting his lines in a blender.
While the desired outcome was to get Auston Matthes out of his slump by putting him with Mitch Marner, the trickle-down effect was the bigger story. Nazem Kadri had arguably his best game of the season with his fifth career hat trick with the Leafs coming out on top 6-3.
William Nylander had three assists and Connor Brown put up two helpers as that line was the big story because it should remind Leafs Nation that the success and failure of this team doesn’t come from one player. The depth the Leafs roll out among their top-nine is something other teams desire.
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Sometimes all it takes is one game for a team to get back on track but that didn’t happen for Toronto when they had an impressive win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Instead, they dropped two straight games against the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes where they simply didn’t look interested.
It shouldn’t take playing against the Capitals to get this team to play the right way but instead of criticizing a win, the Leafs should be grateful that they can find the answers. At no point in their tough stretch did the players let things boil over.
Were they showing frustration? Of course but that’s understandable and maybe the team needed to experience that to show that they need to adapt. Kyle Dubas seemed convinced that the team would be better off going through this slump and maybe they will be.
At least Babcock can remind them what can happen if they aren’t willing to and while he might not want to play Matthews with Marner, he made it clear that he wants both players to drive their own lines.
There aren’t many contending teams winning when only one line is going for them and that’s what the Leafs were going through. This game was a prime example of the formula the team needs to follow to be successful.
They won the possession battle despite being outshot 44-37, they had a CF% of 53.44 and looked more engaged in the play. Babcock made this clear when asked about Nylander’s effort in what was probably his best game this season. Kadri even made it a point to give his linemate thumbs up.
With the All-Star break, hopefully, the team can get a much-needed refresh and the players who are expected to contribute on a more consistent basis can build off this performance.
Sometimes a team needs a boost, like a car battery during cold weather and tonight, the Leafs got a bit of their identity back and now they need to keep it going on a more consistent basis.
What did you think of the Leafs’ performance? What should they be looking to do coming out of the All-Star break? Let us know in the comments below.