Although the recent game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning was a bit of a gong show, the Maple Leafs ended up on the right side of the ledger. After falling behind by a score of 3-1, Joseph Woll came into the game as a goalie replacement for Ilya Samsonov and shut the door – completely. That gave the team a chance to return from a deficit and win in overtime by a score of 4-3.
The Maple Leafs Third Line Finally Looked Solid
Perhaps, head coach Sheldon Keefe’s best decision of the game was to replace Samsonov early so as not to allow a fourth goal. However, Keefe also made another smart coaching decision. During the game, he did some line-switching. As a result, he created a new third line made up of center David Kampf and wingers Matthew Knies and Max Domi.
They were good and stood out as a force to be reckoned with. Their chemistry on the ice as a third line was the difference in the game. Finally, Domi showed his skills and strength. He registered the primary assists on Knies’ first two regular-season goals as a member of the Maple Leafs.
If this line can keep up that same scoring strength, it would bode well for the team’s future.
Moving Kampf to the Third-Line Center Position Worked
The decision to move Kampf to the third-line center position was a game-changer. In the past, his talents were underutilized as the fourth line in a non-defensive role. With this role change, his value as a defensive player was more easily seen.
Additionally, having a skilled center like Kampf (and he is more skilled than many Maple Leafs fans believe) on the third line adds depth to the team’s scoring capabilities. That was seen during the Lightning game.
Moving Pontus Holmberg to the fourth line also helped the team. His addition to the fourth line added a defensively reliable center into the mix. As coach Keefe noted last season, Holmberg makes few errors on the ice. He might not set the world afire offensively – yet; however, he is good in penalty-killing situations and helps cover some of Ryan Reaves’ defensive shortcomings.
The re-jigged fourth line, while playing fewer minutes, added a layer of stability to the team’s defensive strategy.
Domi and Knies Together Were Game Changers
In the Tampa Bay game, Domi’s performance in the latter half of the third period was impressive. He took the game into his own hands and demonstrated dogged effort, strength to ward off defenders, and the speed and smarts to make things happen. Knies was the direct beneficiary.
Domi’s tenacity created scoring opportunities, and the Maple Leafs capitalized. His playmaking abilities allowed Knies to score two crucial goals. Woll, Domi, and Knies became the Maple Leafs’ unlikely heroes. During the game, coach Keefe saw Domi and Knies’ ability to take control after the first goal. He quickly sent them back on the ice. They got the second goal not long after.
The Bottom Line
The Maple Leafs’ third line, consisting of Knies, Kampf, and Domi, provided a vital scoring punch. The team now has three lines capable of putting points on the board, and that enhances their competitiveness.
As the season progresses, the foundation for success could be helped by creating a formidable third line. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. What we know is that, for one game, it worked like gangbusters.