Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews to miss at least 3 weeks with knee ...
Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews will be out of Toronto’s lineup for at least three weeks due to a knee injury, the team announced Friday. Here’s what you need to know:
The Athletic’s instant analysis:What does this mean for the Maple Leafs?
Losing the reigning Hart Trophy winner would be a blow to any team. And after questions about his form earlier in the season, Matthews was starting to go on a heater for the Leafs, with points in 10 of his last 11 games and eight goals over that stretch. Having Matthews in the lineup allowed the Leafs to spread four remarkably skilled forwards across two lines, which often made it difficult for opposition coaches to game plan against.
The question now becomes who will make up for that lost production. John Tavares is himself having a strong season and will take Matthews spot at the top of the lineup with Mitch Marner, a player he’s had chemistry with in the past. But if the lines deployed at Friday’s morning skate are any indication, it’s fair to question how much production the Leafs could get out of a new-look second line with Calle Järnkrok, Pontus Holmberg and William Nylander. Järnkrok and Holmberg have some offensive capabilities but are certainly more defensively-minded players. We’ll see how Holmberg in particular meshes with the uber-creative Nylander. — KlokeWho will need to step up?
The obvious answer here is Nylander. He’s in the middle of his best NHL season to date and you could argue he should have had Matthews’ spot in the All-Star Game. Nylander is leading the team in goals, is tied for the lead in points and is looking more and more like a player who can drive play on his own. He’ll have to do just that on the second line now.
Beyond that, the team’s depth will be tested. For example, no one is asking rookie Bobby McMann to shoulder the production load, but now would be a good time for him to start converting on some of the continued chances he gets with his hard-nosed play and score his first few NHL goals. — KlokeRequired reading