Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Day-after recap: Now the Leafs are the best team in the league.

If this was wrestling, the Leafs would be wearing the biggest of belts right now. Things would be real and they would be cool. Unfortunately, it’s hockey, so the Leafs do not get a belt, but they do get two big regulation points in a scrappy victory over the league’s first place team.

1-0 Leafs (William Nylander goal)

Joe Bowen once, or perhaps more than once, referred to William Nylander as “wee Willie Nylander” and that’s what we’re going to call him from here on out. Wee Willie Nylander gets things going in the first period.

The goal here is the classic case about why people are always yelling about faceoffs – from time to time, they produce a moment of magic like this. Auston Matthews wins the draw, gets the puck back to Jake Gardiner on the point, receives the puck once again while facing his own goal, picks out Wee Willie Nylander and then all of a sudden, the puck is in the back of the Tampa Bay Lightning net. A beautifully executed play and it’s 1-0 good guy’s.

2-0 Leafs (William Nylander goal)

Wee Willie Nylander again! On a breakaway! 2-0 Leafs!

3-0 Leafs (Jake Gardiner goal)

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Always nice to see Jakey on the board.

3-1 Leafs (Alex Killorn goal)

Today we learned that the Tampa Bay Lightning call one of their players Killer, which is offensive because a) killing is bad, and b) it’s Doug Gilmour’s nickname. Late in the second period, Alexander (his actual name, not that stupid nickname) picks up the rebound of his teammate Brayden Point, who was inexplicably named to the all-star game and we’re still not okay with it. Regardless of all our complaining, we can’t change the fact that he scored Tampa’s first goal and made it 3-1 late in the second.

3-2 Leafs (Nikita Kucherov goal)

And on the eighth day, the floodgates were officially open. I’m not very well versed in my biblical studies, but that seems like the kind of thing that might appear there. Under a minute into the first and the NHL’s top point-getter came to play once again.

This goal left us with a sense of existential dread, challenged our will to live and forced out a few tears. But that’s what happens when you play good teams: their good players come to play. And it was up to Toronto to try to combat that.

3-3???? (Yanni Gourde goal)

There was a part of you that hoped and dreamed and prayed that the Leafs wouldn’t blow this lead, but let’s get real, things had been going a bit too smoothly recently. There hadn’t been a whole lot to get frustrated about, and it seemed like if there was an opportunity for blowing a three-goal lead at home to the league’s top team, well, this would be the time to do it.

You’ve got to feel for kind-of-rookie Yanni Gourde, who’s getting very little recognition on a star-studded lineup. Or don’t feel bad for him at all, because he gets to live in Florida and play pro hockey on a very good team.

Frederik Andersen did not have a chance on this one, and somehow, someway, the Leafs see their three goal lead evaporate and we’re right back where we started from.

4-3 Leafs (JVR goal)

It seems insane at some times that James van Riemsdyk is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue as trade bait, but really, how can you want to get rid of this guy right now? Second on the team in goals, first on the team in green mouthguards, and clutch as hell. Quantify that, nerds.

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  • Matmarwill

    Really good push back after the tying goal. Excellent first period of positional hockey in the first and most of the third.

    Yah, keep jvr for the rest of the season. He scores timely greasy goals. I’d say trade bozak at the right price. Willy can take over 3c.

    Good to see the buds keep pacecwith the bolts. Maybe they’d have a better chance in a playoff series with TB than we once thought. They meet a few more times before then, and likely after a back to back, so that’ll give additional measure on that front

  • lukewarmwater

    At this point I think the leafs are W.W.E. intercontinental champions, challenging the Honkey Tonk Man as the greatest intercontinental champion. But the leafs in the wrestlemania main event is coming soon.
    Unfortunately they will have to use cage style rules, where are no rules as teams just try to take out your best players, run goalies. It truly is a survival of the fittest as respect for each other in the playoffs seldom exists these days.

    • Matmarwill

      Yes, Luke, if the buds draw the bruins, we can expect lots of cheap shots and net crashing. Gotto have a big roster in the playoffs. I know they can have any number of players that fit under the salary cap, just not sure how that relates to the marlies, though. I would bring holl and johnsson up, but that might handicap the baby buds. Have to see what they decide.