NHL Insider explains why Leafs are better without Morgan Rielly

The Leafs went a perfect 5-0 without defenseman Morgan Rielly during his suspension.



In what could have been a potentially serious blow to their depth, the Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves without the services of veteran defenseman Morgan Rielly for five straight games after he was suspended for delivering a dirty cross check to the face of Ottawa Senators forward Ridly Grieg earlier in the month. 

Despite an appeal attempt, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the suspension, and he served the full five games having to watch from the press boxes. But despite his absence from the lineup, the Leafs were no worse for wear, winning all five games of the veteran defenseman's suspension. 

He's now eligible to return for tonight's game in Sin City against the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. But are they simply a better team without him playing? 

According to NHL Insider Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet, the Leafs are a more disciplined team when Rielly isn't in the lineup. 

"It's not exactly a small sample size here, it's significant... I think they are more disciplined without Rielly," said Kypreos of the Leafs' blueline without Rielly. "I think it's just the fact that they know who they are back there and they aren't trying to do anything out of the ordinary. No one is trying to be a Morgan Rielly and skate coast-to-coast. You'd think you could convince these guys to be as disciplined (when Rielly is in the lineup).

There is only one green light here and it belongs to Morgan Rielly. I don't know if it's contagious that once one defenseman sees Morgan have a bit a freedom to go behind the net or jump up in the play or pinch that everyone goes along for the ride as well."

Tonight's Leafs and Golden Knights game will be facing off shortly after 10:00 PM EST, and Rielly will be back on the 2nd defensive pairing alongside Jake McCabe. 

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