In the final game of the season, the head coaches for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins talked about the importance of their teams getting through the game healthy so their players are 100 percent for the first game of the playoffs. Bruins’ head Coach Bruce Cassidy sat a total of eight players, including the team’s complete top two lines.
Sheldon Keefe elected to sit only three players, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares. One name that was absent from the players Keefe decided to rest was William Nylander. Instead, Nylander played on a makeshift line with David Kampf and Pierre Engvall. Not only did Nylander play in the game, but he also played over a minute more than he usually plays (19:22 compared to 18:16).
Was William Nylander Happy to Play Last Night?
We could be reading way too much into this; but, it appeared to us, by his body language, that Nylander did not seem very happy with the coach’s decision to play him, either during the game or in his postgame interview after. As it was, Nylander was by far the best player on the ice. He scored two goals, had four shots on net, blocked a shot, had three takeaways, and was the game’s first star.
Whether by design or not, this move by Keefe came across to us as a bit of disrespect towards Nylander. If, as a coach, you decide to sit your best players, one would think that your third-highest scoring player, a player who finished the season one point shy of averaging a point a game (80 points in 81 games), and a player that was your best player in the playoffs last season (5 goals and 8 points in 7 games), would be considered one of your best players.
Not only was Nylander seemingly disrespected by the head coach, but at the end of the game with the score 4-2 Maple Leafs, and the Bruins’ net empty, Keefe did put Nylander on the ice in an effort to get him the hat trick. With 10 seconds left in the game, Pierre Engvall corrals the loose puck on his side of center and doesn’t even look for Nylander who was a short pass away.
Engvall just fires the puck into the empty net. Then, when Nylander skates over to congratulate him, Engvall barely acknowledges him. Nylander appears to be smiling but looks almost embarrassed at the same time.
As we stated, maybe we are taking way too much from this. After all, Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, and Mark Giordano are all important keys to the Maple Leafs’ success in the playoffs. They all played.
Considering Nylander’s Situation on the Maple Leafs
If we look deeper into Nylander’s situation with the team, there are some reasons why trading him this offseason makes sense.
Despite being third on the team in both goals and points, Nylander is dead last in plus/minus at minus-9. Whether you feel that plus/minus is an important statistic, it’s still telling when a player on a team that has scored 62 more goals than its opposition and a player who’s had a hand in 80, or 25 percent of the goals the team has scored this season, was still on the ice for nine more goals against than for.
If we look at Nylander’s five-on-five statistics courtesy of naturalstattrick, we see that Nylander was on the ice for 65 goals against at five-on-five and only 55 goals for. Looking at Nylander’s ranking across the board for all forwards, he ranks sixth in the percentage of shot attempts for, seventh in shots for percentage, 11th in goals-for percentage, fifth in expected goals-for percentage, sixth in scoring chances for, and sixth in high-danger scoring chances for.