With his team 4-5-1 over its last 10 and three points back of the final playoff spot in the East, Toronto head coach Ron Wilson sent a message yesterday, breaking up the All-Star duo of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.
“We’re looking for overall balance,” Wilson told the Globe and Mail. “Balance between offence and defence. We’ve got to keep more pucks out of our net – not make silly mistakes that result in a goal against.”
While it’s unclear what silly mistakes Wilson is referring to, there’s no shortage of candidates. The most recent ones came during Toronto’s 3-2 loss to Ottawa where the Kessel-Lupul-Tyler Bozak line was on the hook for the Senators’ first two goals — but there have been plenty of other miscues over the last few weeks as Kessel and Lupul went a combined minus-10 over three straight Leafs losses.
“Some lines have been getting scored on way too much in the last 10 or 15 games,” Wilson said (without directly naming names). “At least for a period, we’ll see if something like [shuffling the lineup] helps us.”
The break-up may have hit Kessel and Lupul hard, as they both declined to speak with reporters following Wednesday’s practice. The two have played nearly 90 percent of their even-strength time together this year, Lupul has been on the ice for all but four of Kessel’s 49 points and both are headed to the All-Star game based largely on the chemistry they’ve developed this season.
According to the Globe, Toronto’s new-look top two lines for Thursday’s game against Minnesota will be:
Matt Lombardi-Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul-Tim Connolly-Nazem Kadri