The Toronto Maple Leafs have a tough task ahead with John Tavares out of the lineup and you can expect the pressure to be on Auston Matthews.
However, just like any other team in the league, when you take one of those centres away, it leaves a hole that’s tough to fill. For the Leafs they can’t simply replace Tavares in the lineup but they still have Matthews and you can expect the attention turn to him during this time.
To be fair, nobody is saying Matthews needs to or should be expected to carry the load all by himself but you can bet that if he is not able to step up his game, it’ll be a conversation. It starts on Saturday against a Boston Bruins team that has been on their game to start the season and it won’t be an easy matchup.
Some are wondering whether Leafs should consider moving Mitch Marner to play with Matthews so that they force teams to try and stop that line.
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You can’t hate that idea considering the Leafs fell victim to the Tampa Bay Lightning throwing Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point on a line together and on Saturday they have to deal with the Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand trio.
This is not something the Leafs need to do for the rest of the season but it should be something Mike Babcock has to consider. William Nylander has been impressive this season and it would be crazy to suggest that he should be moved away from Matthews but the Leafs can’t be too conservative with their approach with Tavares out.
A team will gameplan to limit the effectiveness of Matthews’ line which would make sense because you would rather lose to the Leafs depth over one line which the Leafs have been guilty of in the past. At the same time, the Leafs hope that Marner can carry a line on his own like he did before Tavares came to Toronto.
You can bet all eyes will be on the Leafs’ lines on Friday at practice and that will tell a lot of what the team’s plans will be with Tavares out and you can bet Matthews will be the central figure in all of that.
Do you think the pressure is on Matthews to carry the load with Tavares out? What can the team do to avoid having too much on his shoulders? Let us know in the comments below.