PREGAME: Leafs, Bruins tinker with lineups

PREGAME: Leafs, Bruins tinker with lineups
During the morning skate, Nazem Kadri skated back on his usual line between Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner, with Tomas Plekanec between William Nylander and Andreas Johnsson. Since Kadri returned from suspension, he has spent the morning skates with Marner and Marleau, but come game time, he s flipped lines with Plekanec.

Could be nothing but head games for Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who has been doing some line manoeuvring of his own, notably moving Rick Nash off Boston s second line to its third. Rookie Danton Heinen will take Nash s spot on the second line, with Tommy Wingels scratched.

Babcock said the key for the Leafs is to withstand the first 10 minutes, when Boston will come out strong with the support of the TD Garden crowd, and stay out of the penalty box.

"You want to come out and be poised and execute early," said Babcock. "That s criticial to having success. Scoring first is important as well."

But his key pregame message was a bit more poetic:

"But there are only certain moments in your life that turn into memories. This is one of them. Make it a great memory. We have an opportunity to enjoy ourselves, to embrace the situation, to play well, to play hard. Let s do that."


Mitch Marner: "We played the whole season for this moment. It s exciting. We ve to be ready to play."

Nazem Kadri: "This is something you don t an opportunity for every single year. Game 7, there s not much more to be said."

David Backes: "I compare it almost to a 60-minute overtime type of game. The playoffs is a notch up, and a Game 7 is even another notch up"

LOOSE LEAFS: There are some Leaf fans wandering around Boston. These guys seem to be ... well. ... having a good time. Stay safe fellas.

COMMENT: Good day Kevin:

I read with great chagrin that I read the suggestion of one of your readers:  Matthews be dealt for a big return.  I cannot understand how anyone could think this - I totally agree with you.    Matthews is one of, if not the best, skilled player that has ever played on the Leafs and that is saying something with the likes of Clark, Salming, Sundin et al.  The blindness that some fans (who say “I want this and I want it now") is discouraging.  This Leaf team is a work in progress:  it is but year two of a 5 or 6 year plan.  Matthews is in his sophomore year and has been injured - he still put up excellent numbers.  He is a game changer, arguably a generational player.  Take a deep breath impatient Leaf fans.  When the Leafs are bumped from the playoffs (and they will be sooner than later - this is not their year), it will be sad, but remember - this is a work in progress and these playoffs, like last year’s, are collective learning experiences.

Regarding another comment one of your readers made:  the Leafs do not look like the Olympic teams Babcock coached.  As your reader recognized, the Olympics attract the best in the world.  It is inconceivable that and NHL team could ice anything close to assembling such a team.  However, one trademark of Babcock’s Olympic teams was how they changed lines.  Players came to the bench skating at full tilt, none of this coasting stuff.  Players on the bench saw the upcoming change, formulated a plan, and hit the ice hard and fast - Toews was always at full speed in two strides - and was in middle of the play very quickly.  

Speed is everything in today’s game and this seems to me to be a simple adjustment that will give the Leafs more of advantage without changing lines or personnel.  I know the players  are gassed at the end of a shift.  Suck it up, make shorter changes if need be.  Just skate boys, as fast as you can, both to and from the bench.  It will be a significant free advantage over most teams who lallygag to and from the bench.  I am at a loss to know why more teams do not subscribe to line changes with this style.

Dave B

RESPONSE: You re dead right, Dave. Speed on line changes, especially at this time of year, is paramount. I hate when guys float on a line change. I heard one story about Marc Savard s early career, and that he d hold his hand up and to signal he was coming off, from about 100 feet away and glide back. His coach told him never to do that. He said Wayne Gretzky used to do it. The coach said: "You re not Wayne Gretzky." ...


I’m shocked that The Star would even print that question.  Auston is the arguably the best thing that ever happened to the Leafs organization.

I see you answered the question correctly but we should twice about even airing that question. The last thing we want is for Auston to not think he’s loved by Leafs Nation.

Thanks, Ashton M.

RESPONSE: It s not my place to censor what readers think, but simply to curate the conversation. How Auston Matthews deals with criticism from the fans is entirely up to him.


Since Saturday morning, we have been flying the Maple Leafs flag outside our home in Houston, Texas. Some of our neighbors and friends asked what country has that flag  We said, "The nation of Nazem Kadri." Confused, they asked "But it says Toronto on it. Isn t that in Canada?" Our answer, "Same thing."

We are seeing Game 7 with friends back at the same home we saw the Game 7 Meltdown. Once experienced, it won t happen again. And the Leafs needed to go through that to know that now. If you would have told us then that the Leafs would have a second chance to re-play the game five years later in Boston, it would have seemed like an impossible miracle. Made them more resilient late in these last 2 games.

After Game 2, we again thought the same. Just to see the Leafs play for 30 seconds, win or lose, will be so satisfying, a bonus, a dream come true. Already, it will be a highlight in cheering for the Leafs all these years.

Hoping the Marlies win too in Utica,

Roman C.

RESPONSE: I edited this a little bit, because it was 2013, not 2010, but I had to leave your opening "Lance" because it made me laugh. I ll pass this along to the Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun. He ll have a wittier answer because he s funnier than me. ... I m Starsky. He s Hutch. ... Enjoy the game.
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