The Wraparound: Maple Leafs must adjust quickly without Tavares
The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.
• Four playoff games are on the docket for Saturday and Sunday.
• Nazem Kadri has been suspended eight games for his hit on Justin Faulk in Game 2.
• Want to catch up on each night’s action in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Read the NHL Playoff Buzzer.
Considering how terrifying John Tavares’ injury looked, the Maple Leafs were almost certainly most concerned with his health. Yet, in Game 1 and now Game 2 against the Canadiens, the Maple Leafs must adjust quickly to Tavares being out of the lineup indefinitely.
Sure, the Maple Leafs aren’t a “one-man team.” But Toronto fell to the Canadiens in a tight Game 1, and Tavares is an $11M forward who generated 50 points in 56 games this season. That’s one significant man.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]
It’s too early to tell how the Maple Leafs will look without John Tavares over the longer haul. But right now, we see their early plans. And those early plans include at least one surprise: Nick Foligno moving to center.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe explained the decision to try Foligno out at center.
“Nick’s played a lot of centre, played a lot of centre in Columbus before he came here this season,” Keefe said, via The Athletic (sub. required). “We don’t have an abundance of options there, and (we) just liked the look of that — like the ability to put Galchenyuk in that spot.”
[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Technically, the Maple Leafs have some other options at center/centre. Just maybe not optimal ones.
- Joe Thornton played the majority of his likely Hall of Fame career at center.
- Alex Galchenyuk memorably fizzled out at center with the Canadiens, as Keefe alluded to. But at least he has some experience there.
- Alexander Kerfoot, Jason Spezza, and Riley Nash are also options ... again, not necessarily optimal ones, though.
Looking at Foligno’s career stats, a coach obsessed with faceoffs might not be thrilled with the idea. But considering his skill set, center might make sense: he’s a dogged defensive player.
Granted, Galchenyuk is not, and while Nylander is better all-around then people realize, it remains to be seen if that trio would make sense.
None of this is ideal, but it will be interesting to see how the Maple Leafs perform vs. the Canadiens without Tavares -- in Game 2, and beyond.
TODAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 4: Panthers at Lightning (TB leads 2-1) 12:30 p.m. ET - CNBC (livestream)
Game 4: Penguins at Islanders (PIT leads 2-1) 3 p.m. ET - NBC (livestream)
Game 2: Canadiens at Maple Leafs (MTL leads 1-0) 7 p.m. ET - CNBC (livestream)
Game 4: Golden Knights at Wild (VGK leads 2-1) 8 p.m. ET - NBC (livestream)
SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 4: Hurricanes at Predators (CAR leads 2-1), 2:30 p.m. ET - NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Avalanche at Blues (COL leads 3-0), 5 p.m. ET - NBCSN (livestream)
Game 5: Bruins at Capitals (BOS leads 3-1), 7 p.m. ET - USA Network (livestream)
Game 3: Oilers at Jets (WPG leads 2-0), 7:30 p.m. ET - NBCSN (livestream)
PHT’s 2021 Stanley Cup previews
• Penguins vs. Islanders
• Bruins vs. Capitals
• Jets vs. Oilers
• Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens
• Lightning vs. Panthers
• Hurricanes vs. Predators
• Golden Knights vs. Wild
• Avalanche vs. Blues
• Stanley Cup playoff predictions
• Why your team can (and can not) win the Stanley Cup this season
• NHL odds: Division winners, 2021 Stanley Cup champion
• Which NHL playoff series has biggest upset potential?