Leafs Postgame: Crying Lightning

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Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY SPORTS

Before there were hot streaks, there were games like these. Games where the Toronto Maple Leafs seemed so totally in control of the flow but had zero ability to shape the result. For an organization looking to add another blue-chip prospect, those games are the best; they show that your team is capable of doing good things, but prevent you from having your lottery odds diminished. Even still, a 3-0 shutout is a rough way to get that result and exactly the path that the Leafs took tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

shutout

Toronto poured shots on Ben Bishop right from the start, but it became obvious very early that this wasn’t going to be an easy night. William Nylander’s gorgeous feed to Brad Boyes which turned into a save of the year candidate set the tone for Tama Bay’s first goal of the game at the seven and a half minute mark, which saw Mike Blunden rocket a one-timer past Garret Sparks.  The rookie had a less-than-stellar showing statistically, and it was only made worse after Ondrej Palat baseball-swung a one-timer into his open five hole ten minutes later.

The Lightning added one more goal to the pile midway through the second. Steven Stamkos, who could very well have been playing his last game ever against the Maple Leafs tonight, pumped the brakes at the right hash marks, spun around, and backhanded a pass to Victor Hedman, who roofed it top shelf to make it 3-0. While Toronto kept pressing, outshooting Tampa Bay 16-5 for the rest of the game, they weren’t able to beat Bishop even once before the final buzzer, allowing him to pick up the shutout.

Blue Warrior

Let’s go with William Nylander, just because I’m in disbelief that this fantastic play wasn’t rewarded. He was also a 75% possession player tonight, which is pretty bonkers.

Highlight of the Night

The pushing and shoving at the end of tonight’s game was likely the result of players being told to watch their mouths, but Jonathan Bernier perhaps most deserves the same advance for a different reason.

See You Next Time

The end of the season is upon us! The Leafs are down to a lucky seven games remaining until they find out if the lottery balls will land in their favour. The next of which comes tomorrow, as they take on the Florida Panthers. Puck drop is at 7:30 PM.

Oh, and Steven… 96 days.

  • jimithy

    With Kadri’s scoring struggles, it makes me think of new age Babcock who said if you cheat the system, the system get you back.

    And there sure is some bad karma coming Kadri’s way this season for some reason because despite what looks like great on ice effort, he is not getting rewarded. And it is probably as simple as him not putting the off season work and effort on his shot and training on par with his peers.

    Babcock is right – the system gets you back. But Kadir is going to come back strong next year with an elite shot and more offence.

    • jimithy

      It’s not just Kadri who has the weakest shot ever. Reilly and Gardiner can be added to the list. The lack of a sniper or two is going to haunt this team for the next five to ten years. Just in time for another rebuild.

      • jimithy

        Oh don’t bring up the lack of elite hot dog loving sniper.

        There are too many leafs that dust off the puck instead of a quick one time release. I have already seen some improvement in Kadri’s shot, but Babcock is right that Kadri needs to put a lot of effort into improving the consistency of the placement, power and release timing.

      • MikeFleury

        Such a tired narrative.

        This “weak shot” narrative is bunk. This season Kadri is shooting at HALF his career S%. Previouly, he’d been averaging 12.55%. If he’d maintained that clip for this season he’d be having a 30 goal season.

        I’ll say this again; had he continued scoring at the same number he’d always scored at previously, not doing anything differently, and with the same “weak” shot… he’d have 30 goals.

        It happens, occasionally. Shooting slumps happen. Look at Getzlaf. He has 12 goals, is shooting at 7%. Henrik Zetterberg went from a 43 goal scorer to a 23 goal scorer when his S% dropped from 14 to 7.

        These things happen. I don’t hear anyone saying they have weak shots.

        With Soshnikov’s wrister and what Nylander can do with a bit of open space, nevermind Marner’s ability to weave through a defense, JVR’s skillset, and, dare I say it, Bozak’s ability to find space and score in it… I don’t think the team will be in such dire need of a Kessel type.

          • TGT23

            Sure, except what proof do you have that Kadri’s struggles are “weak shot” related?

            His S% has plummeted this season, did his shot get weaker from last season? Are you saying he used to have a great shot but doesn’t, anymore?

            Nwvermind that other players who you WOULDN’T say had a weak shot having the same issue both now and in recent years. Ovechkin numbers plummeted too when his S% dipped. Remember the “he’s washed up” year? Did his shot get worse and then better again?

            It’s a narrative and a lazy one at that.

      • magesticRAGE

        I don’t know if you’ve paid attention, but when Reilly shoots, it’s hard and relatively accurate. He rarely used it (using it more now), but Reilly had a bomb!
        I would like to see Reilly be used more like Suban is, shifting to the half-wall for the one-timer. He’s a thick boy, and with his he can really get leverage into the shot.

        • jimithy

          Relative is what it is. The main thing is that Reilly cannot do what he is supposed to be able to do. This is problematic. You see, to be able to do what you are supposed to be able to do is fundamental to success.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Crazy game — but hard to argue with the outcome. Kadri, Rielly, and Gardiner played like men possessed.

    The Leafs could not do more to tank with dignity.

  • magesticRAGE

    I tend to agree a hard effort put forward but a nice defeat helping in the tanking department as the Canuckleheads and Edmonton continue their titanic plunge. Thank goodness those two loser organizations play each other twice at the end of the year.

    So let me see if I got this straight. Kadri after how many years in junior, how many years now in the N.H.L. has to work on his shot?? According to pundits in here Babcock is implying he has to get stronger so his shot can break a pain of glass.

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again the leafs will be well on their way to being a contender when Kadri is at best a third line center which he would be on most Stanley cup contenders.

    • magesticRAGE

      I agree, in that if Kadri is pushed down to the 3rd line, the Leafs are set down the middle. This rebuild would need to go perfect for this to happen.
      Kadri does need to get stronger (his core), but he has put the work in the past off season (skating), he just needs more guidance, which I believe he has now.

    • TGT23

      By which measurement are you using to deduce that Kadri is “at best” a third line C on “most cup contenders”?

      Further, how exactly are you going to analyse Kadri vs. C’s on winning teams when they play with 2nd Line wingers that are good enough for cup contending teams, while Kadri’s most played with Winger’s this season are Grabner and Leo Komarov?

      Are you suggesting Leo and Grabner are Wingers on a cup contender and it is Kadri holding them back?

  • Jeremy Ian

    I just don’t see how we can possibly keep 30th. The Oilers have three games left, against Calgary and twice against Vancouver.

    True, the Leafs face teams desperate for playoff position, like Detroit, Philly, Florida. But there’s a lot of red meat in the way too: Columbus, Buffalo, New Jersey. I can’t see the Leafs losing to all of them.