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Leafs Shuffle The Forward Lines

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs


Saturday’s loss to the Boston Bruins has forced a change to the Leafs look up front

Most noticeably, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak have been placed on separate lines, something the two have only seen when there has been an injury that has directed the move.

“I don’t think we expect to play together every shift of every game,” said Bozak, who was centring a line with James van Riemsdyk and David Clarkson. “Obviously, things are going to move throughout the season when things aren’t working.”

Kessel, finds himself on the right wing to Nazem Kadri. The two have played on a line together to some success in the past. With a need for offence to pick up as a whole, one of the more noticeable droughts has been Kadri, who has gone five straight games without a point, for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

“It is frustrating, but as an offensive player you like to look at the positives” said Kadri. “You understand that you could be producing more. But at the same time, if you have the puck a majority of the game, most of the time our line does, you have to think sooner or later we’re going to have some puck luck and things are going to start going your way.”

Following an off day, the Leafs were put through the paces on Monday morning. There was a focus on the team’s breakout, competing for the puck and it was all capped off with aerobic skating drills.

Still, the loss against Boston lingers and it has to do with not being able to draw on any positives.

“We didn’t play with any structure” recalled Carlyle. “It looks like we didn’t have a game plan in place when you’ve got people going all over the place."

Despite the loss, it’s still early in the season. But the problem of playing at home has been brought to the forefront. All three losses at Air Canada Centre haven’t been close. It’s become a confidence issue, rather than a systemic one.

“To me it’s mental,” Carlyle said. “The issues we have, it’s about being strong between the ears.”

“We’ve played loose to our system and when we start doing that we don’t manage the puck well,” said defenceman Cody Franson. “We have to play a structural game in order to have success and get the crowd behind us. There’s a difference between working stupid and working smart.”

A home record becomes key to the Leafs going forward. Despite recent struggles, the team remains convinced that they’ll turn it around.

"I bet you it’s going to swap at some point and we can lose a few on the road and win a bunch at home,” said Bozak. "It’s hard to say exactly what it is. It’s unfortunate we haven’t played our best at home in front of our fans so hopefully we can turn that around.”

Seven Defencemen Experient Dead, For Now.

On Sunday, the Maple Leafs sent down defencemen Stuart Percy. In seven games with the club, Percy registered three assists. But with a focus on getting some offence from key players, it looks as though we’ve seen the end of dressing seven defencemen for the time being.

“We felt that he struggled in the two games we played him in” Carlyle said in reference to the Leafs win in Long Island and loss to Boston. “(We) felt that he’s had a great start to an NHL career. We just felt if we’re going to play seven D or continue to play seven D, that it was going to be counterproductive; a) to some of our forward groups and b); to Stuart Percy not getting enough minutes.”

Leafs lines Monday’s Practice

Lupul-Kadri-Kessel
JVR-Bozak-Clarkson
Komarov-Santorelli-Winnik
Ashton-Holland-Panik-Frattin

Defence
Phaneuf-Franson
Rielly-Polak
Gardiner-Robidas

Goalies
Bernier
Reimer

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