Leafs' Game 5 lines feature shock exclusion from lineup

Apr 26 2023, 6:44 pm

When the Toronto Maple Leafs take to the ice on Thursday night, they’ll have a chance to clinch their first postseason series win since all the way back in 2004.

But if the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning ends in five games, there will be at least one typical Leafs forward not present in the post-series handshake line.

Based on the Leafs’ lineup at today’s practice, it looks like forward Michael Bunting will be absent from Toronto’s group come tomorrow night’s Game 5.

With the Leafs up 3-1 in the series, they’ve had all three of their wins come without Bunting, who was ejected from Game 1 and later suspended three games for a hit on Tampa defenceman Erik Cernak. Rookie forward Matthew Knies was inserted into the lineup in Bunting’s place, while Calle Jarnkrok slotted in alongside Bunting’s usual linemates in Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews.

The Lightning is sitting at 11.25 for the improbable series comeback, while the Leafs sit at 1.06 to close out the series, as per Sports Interaction.

ā€œMy job is to be a professional and a good teammate, just wait until my number is called,ā€ Bunting told reporters today.

In the regular season, Bunting had 23 goals and 26 assists in 82 games for the Leafs this season, his second with the team. Heā€™s the teamā€™s fifth-leading scorer and has been a staple of the teamā€™s top six over the last two seasons.

ā€œItā€™s not as easy or as simple as a decision as it may have been earlier in the seriesā€¦ [Bunting is] a very good option for us, heā€™s a good player for us,ā€ Keefe told reporters yesterday.

Here’s how the Leafs lined up at practice today, via TSN’s Mark Masters.

Forward lines

  • Calle Jarnkrok – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
  • Matthew Knies –Ā  John Tavares – Mitch Marner
  • Kerfoot – Ryan Oā€™Reilly – Noel Acciari
  • Zach Aston-Reese – David Kampf – Sam Lafferty
  • Wayne Simmonds,Ā  Michael Bunting

Defensive pairings

  • Morgan Rielly – Luke Schenn
  • Jake McCabe – TJ Brodie
  • Mark Giordano – Justin Holl
  • Erik Gustafsson – Timothy Liljegren
  • Victor Mete – Conor Timmins

The Leafs, atĀ 6.24, trail just the Boston Bruins atĀ 3.44Ā as the leagueā€™s second-best odds right now to win the Stanley Cup this season,Ā as per Sports Interaction.Ā 

The Edmonton Oilers (7.37), Colorado Avalanche (9.12), and Vegas Golden Knights (10.04) all round out the top five as the next three top Stanley Cup contenders per Sports Interaction.

Puck drop for Game 5 is set for 7 pm ET on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.

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