Maple Leafs shaking up disappointing power play
For all the aces he could play on the Maple Leafs power play, Mike Babcock is shuffling the deck.
Take away a 3-for-3 night against the Florida Panthers before Christmas and it’s 2-for40 the past five weeks, 1-for-15 of late and ranked behind four other Eastern Conference teams overall. There have been recent dry seasons where the Leafs would consider better-than-22 per cent production reason to give bonuses to their assistant coaches, but not when top drawer talent such as Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner are capable of more.
So, Babcock flipped Matthews with Kasperi Kapanen at practice, to play the slot and wall with Tavares and Nazem Kadri hovering down low. The switch utilizes Kapanen’s speed and might restore a bit of the Matthews– William Nylander 5-on-5 chemistry with the second group given more real estate.
Whatever the case, it can’t hurt as Babcock watched recent game video with no one home to tip point shots that went wide and exited the zone, while other teams began cutting off the Marner to Matthews puck pipeline.
“It wasn’t going the way we wanted,” summed up the coach. “When you (stack) one group, you don’t have as much competition. I still like when you have two and compete to see who’s out there. We’ll see how it goes, we can always change back at any time.”