The Toronto Maple Leafs are heading into Game 2 with a massive void left in the lineup by John Tavares’ injury and looking to avoid an 0-2 deficit.
After watching the team’s performance in Game 1, it’s clear the absence of Tavares weighed on the team both mentally and with their inability to generate offensively. We have seen at times how the opposition tries to keep the Leafs’ top scorers from getting into the prime scoring areas.
The big change heading into the second game of the series is that Nick Foligno will shift into Tavares’ spot in the lineup with Alex Galchenyuk drawing in and Pierre Engvall taking Riley Nash’s spot on the third line. It’s not an ideal situation but it’s the best option the Leafs have right now.
With that being said, there are a few things Toronto needs to go their way if they expect to get back into this series.
1. William Nylander needs to get more playing time especially on the power play
It’s no surprise that following Tavares’ injury, the top line of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman got the bulk of the playing time. At the end of the game, Matthews finished with 23:57 of ice time including nearly four minutes straight to end the game, Marner played 27:23 which likely got a bump from the time he spent on the penalty and Hyman played 24:37.
While Sheldon Keefe made sure to lean on his top line, it’s surprising to see Nylander finish with 16:40 of total ice time. That’s not what you want to see when your team is trailing and needs offence especially since Nylander scored the team’s only goal in the game.
When the Leafs got some power-play chances late in the game, it was only fitting that Matthews and Marner would lead the team in ice time with the man advantage. It might come as a bit of a surprise that Hyman wasn’t too far behind them and Nylander was actually fourth among forwards.
There are benefits to playing Hyman on the power play given his desire to get to the front of the net and screen the goalie. At the same time, as the team’s power play continues to struggle, it should only make sense to make sure that one of your top offensive talents gets more opportunities to score.