Good news! The Leafs absolutely, 100 percent, did not blow a lead tonight. If I told you that at the start of the game you might be thrilled based on how the start of the season has gone, but alas what they did was much worse. Instead, Toronto decided to spare their fans any heartache by not taking the lead at all and get blown out of the water early instead. The Lightning took a 3-0 lead after one period and never looked back after that, beating Toronto 7-3 on Tuesday night.
This game was headlined by Steven Stamkos’ first game back in Toronto since spurning the team in the off-season during free agency. If this game was any indication, Stamkos made the right choice sticking with a very solid Tampa squad that easily man-handled the team early on. To rub even more salt in the wound, Stamkos was the main catalyst of that early onslaught, scoring two of the three first period goals.
The Leafs looked like they would maybe-almost-kinda flip the script on their early season lead struggles, when William Nylander scored a goal late in the second to make it 4-1, a lead we all know to be easily surmountable. Joking aside, with the firepower on offence it didn’t seem too far-fetched, but then Tampa Bay scored a fifth goal (assisted by Stamkos, his fourth point of the night, ugh) to make it 5-1 and all hope was lost, right?
Not quite. That offensive firepower did turn up with 10 minutes left as the Leafs quickly added two goals by James van Riemsdyk and who else but Auston Matthews. It’s another multi-point effort from the first overall pick who now leads the NHL in points with 10. That’s crazy and probably outside all our wildest pre-season dreams.
That brought the lead down to two and the team pressed hard to cut that lead further. They outshot the Lightning 17 to 9 in the third and 43 to 24 overall. It wasn’t enough to get the win (and Tampa Bay added two more goals), but anytime you can do that to a top team in the league like the Lightning (despite the score) it’s a very promising sign. The Leafs ended up controlling 56.7 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts after adjusting for score and venue, according to Corsica. Not bad.
Why The Leafs Lost
Let’s not beat around the bush here: you’re not going to win many games letting in
four five six seven (!) goals against. Is that all on the goaltending? No. But I mean… you gotta make a save at some point. The Lightning scored on almost a third of their shots. One third! That’s unbelievable. Tampa Bay is an offensive powerhouse, sure, but that’s simply not going to cut it. The Leafs are averaging 3.4 goals-per-game in their five losses. That would be the best mark over the last five years. To do that on offence and not come out with any wins is extremely discouraging. What it does say though is that with some better defence and even average goaltending, this team has potential to do some real damage.
Uh… we gotta give it to someone, I think? Sort of feels like the fans deserve this one for having to sit through a 7-3 loss, but if anyone deserves it, it’s probably the 19-year-old kid who had two points and now leads the entire NHL in points. Auston Matthews is incredible and he is tonight’s Blue Warrior.
By Game Score, which is my pet stat for measuring single game productivity, tonight’s leader was Matthews’ linemate William Nylander who also had two points. But he doesn’t lead the league in points, so we went with the guy who did. Along with Zach Hyman, that line collectively dominated the shot clock. Every Leaf except Matt Martin had a positive night in the Corsi column. And yeah, that -3.6 Game Score for Frederik Andersen is the lowest of the year, for anyone. (Probably, I haven’t actually checked.. but c’mon, seven goals on 24 shots against is atrocious).
On To The Next One
Leafs play again on Thursday at home against the Florida Panthers at 7:30 pm. Maybe this time they can win, or at least not allow more than three goals please.