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How has the Leafs 11-7 Lineup Worked So Far?

Toronto Maple Leafs have experimented a lot with their lines lately. In the month of March alone, 26 different players have made their way into the lineup.

Toronto Maple Leafs have experimented a lot with their lines lately. In the month of March alone, 26 different players have made their way into the lineup.


This is mainly caused by the flood of new players, specifically defensemen into the Leafs lineup after the trade deadline and the injury to Ryan O’Reilly. In response to this, Keefe has made some ambitious moves, experimenting with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on 6 occasions this month.


So how’s that worked out?


At first glance, the results don't seem definitive. In those games, they’ve gone 3-3, and they’ve outscored their opponents 19-16. Those opponents being Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Buffalo, Colorado, and Carolina.


In analyzing the stats of those six games compared to the rest of the season, we start to see some more separation.


Looking at these stats alone, one could come to the conclusion that the Leafs are in fact less effective while playing 11-7, with the only noticeable improvement being just one fewer shot against per game.

There is, however, a very valid reason to play 11-7 through certain stretches when considering rest and game management.


During the 6 six games that the Leafs played 11-7 in March, their top defensemen all saw noticeable decreases in average ice time. Morgan Rielly went from averaging nearly 21 minutes a night to 18:45, which may have been a contributing factor to his recent offensive explosion. T.J. Brodie went from an average of 21:37 to 20:39, Justin Holl dropped from 20:26 to 16:48 and has also been noticeably better defensively, and perhaps most importantly, 39-year-old Mark Giordano saw his ice-time drop from 18:19 per night to 15:28, an incredible improvement for the league’s oldest active skater.


While there may not necessarily be a noticeable improvement in the Leafs offensive production, keeping their defence core fresh and rested gives them a major advantage late in games. When the opponent’s top blueliners are playing their 23rd minute, Brodie and Rielly can be skating in just their 19th with relatively fresh legs.

So should the Leafs continue playing with 11-7? Occasionally, yes. Towards the end of a long road trip in which their top defensive pairings have all been playing over 18-20 minutes per night, it would make sense to share the load. Consistently using 11-7 deprives the team of having a solidified fourth line, and can be detrimental to line chemistry in the bottom six.


So far it is unclear if the Leafs will stick with the 12-6 lineup they used in their shootout win against Ottawa tomorrow night against the Islanders on the road.

David Felsbourg

Monday, March 20, 2023

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