Knee Jerk Reaction: The sun sets quickly in Sunrise

Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
9 days ago
Here it goes again. For the fourth time in 11 years, the Toronto Maple Leafs will square off against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s a sickening sentence for those of us around the Greater Toronto Area, but we’ll leave you to judge: would you rather face the Bruins or the Panthers? In any case, it’s moot and it’s now incumbent upon the Maple Leafs to exorcise their greatest demon.
Anyways, to Tuesday’s game, which was distilled into two simple outcomes: figuring out who the Maple Leafs will play in the first round and Auston Matthews’ pursuit of 70 goals. Toronto started out strong in the first period, as Mitch Marner opened the scoring on the power play. Noah Gregor then circled the offensive zone and ripped his sixth goal of the season, giving the Maple Leafs a seemingly commanding 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.
At the risk of playing pop psychologist, the Maple Leafs’ capitulated. Matthew Tkachuk (of course!) jumped John Tavares and a melee ensued. Tkachuk is an elite agitator and though he went to the box, Tavares and Simon Benoit also drew minors. It broke the Maple Leafs’ offensive fluency entirely.
During the first intermission, the Maple Leafs could’ve essentially texted Paul Maurice that they were going to telegraph the offense through Matthews. Toronto tried in vain to help No. 34 get to the 70-goal mark but it allowed Florida to bat away the puck and race out in transition. Carter Verhaeghe scored 28 seconds into the second frame, and the sun began to set in Sunrise.
Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart scored within 10 seconds of each other, then Brandon Montour scored exactly three minutes later. It was a historically awful period and no, this isn’t just Game 81 hyperbole. The Athletic’s James Mirtle researched that the 30 shots surrendered during the second stanza was the fourth-worst total in NHL history.
Matthews had his chances. He almost tucked the puck in past Anthony Stolarz during the third period but he got his pad to the puck just in time. Matthews finished with five shots in just under 20 minutes. We’re unsure if he’s going to get a chance at 70 tomorrow but if he doesn’t, we should be grateful to witness the best goal-scoring output in three decades.
A familiar foe awaits the Maple Leafs this weekend. Time to close out the regular season and avoid the injury list in Tampa Bay.

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