So we’re three points back of Boston with three games in hand... and Babcock puts Bibeau in net for a game against Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay, despite the injuries, is generally considered to be a better team than last night’s opponents so... let’s see how this goes
Both teams played last night so it should have been less of a surprise that the first period did not start out as the track meet they usually put on.
Bibeau looked a bit panicky early on, moving with short, jerky motions and seeming a bit too eager to flop down onto the puck, but he survived with the help of his team and his goalpost. (That “ping!” is both one of the most wonderful and most maddening sounds in hockey)
Kadri drew a penalty as the period hit the halfway point and we witnessed what would be a theme with the Leafs power play all night: physical comedy. Between bouncing pucks, missed passes, and Tampa Bay’s agressive kill, the power play unit only really managed to get it together in the last 30 seconds or so.
Zaitsev was called for holding on Brian Boyle. Bibeau still looked awkward, but Hyman managed his first of several shorthanded chances on the night.
Not long after the second penalty was killed off William Nylander got a chance in the Lightning zone. Being Nylander, he waited for approximately a glacial age before shooting right on Vasilevskiy. He did this yesterday as well and it drives me bananas. Shoot the damn puck, William!
Of course, off the ensuing faceoff, Hyman got the puck to Matthews, who swept it in behind Vasilevskiy while Hyman was acting as a screen. So I can’t be too mad.
Because Kadri can’t just draw penalties, he has to take them too, the Leafs went to the penalty kill again. Hunwick blocked a hard shot by Drouin and seemed to be limping a little. Hyman got a shorthanded breakaway. This is a recording.
Nylander and Kadri combined for a nifty chance in the last minute of play, and then the Lightning were called for interference with two seconds left in the period.
I think it’s Ray Ferraro who insists that starting a period on the power play is bad for a team’s momentum, and it was certainly true tonight. The power play was a mess, not only allowing a couple of shorthanded chances but also downing van Riemsdyk with friendly fire. I’m not sure if Nylander meant to pass it to him, or meant to pass it to someone else and JVR got in the way, but the end result was a puck to the knee and JVR off to the room for a bit.
Since the Leafs’ power play was so bad, the Lightning decided they wanted another two minutes right away. Stralman was called for hooking and we got to watch the whole Keystone Cops routine, complete with yet another shorthanded chance for Killorn. Fortunately, JVR managed to get back on the ice during this time. The commentators helpfully informed everyone that the Leafs managed a single shot on goal over the entire four minute sequence.
While the Leafs were letting the Lightning spend far too much time in their zone, they were generally keeping shots to the outside or blocking things that got in closer. On the occasional moments when Toronto entered the Tampa Bay zone, they had a much clearer path to the net, and Tyler Bozak took advantage.
He won the faceoff, got to the net and managed to knock a rebound in, having clearly taken some baseball pointers from Matthews.
Unfortunately, all that time in the Leafs zone was going to pay off for the Lightning eventually. It didn’t help that none of the Leafs defenders seemed to know where to move or how to move at all as Drouin came in.
Hyman needed more shorthanded practice so Zaitsev went off for holding. (Nobody looked good on the power play tonight)
The second Tampa goal was another example of how you only notice the defence when they’re doing something bad. In this case, Carrick more or less centres a puck for Palat, who sent it five-hole on Bibeau.
The Leafs had a great chance almost immediately afterwards, but failed to put it home.
Hyman drew a penalty late in the second and this time it was Bibeau bailing his team out with an impressive stop.
Starting the period on the last 30 seconds of the previous power play did not do the Leafs any good. They just could not dictate play at all in this period.
The Lightning had a few chances - one play where Bibeau trapped the puck against the post that the refs reviewed to check whether it had crossed the line (no goal) and another wonderful “ping!” with just over five minutes left. Kadri and Marner had the best chances for the Leafs.
There was one penalty kill in the period - a tripping call on Hyman late in the period. Without Hyman to generate shorthanded chances, Tampa Bay’s power play actually looked like a power play, but Bibeau was up to the task.
Considering who the Leafs were playing, I did not have a great feeling about going to overtime. I would like it on record, however, that I did call the Leafs scorer correctly!
Overtime was the usual anxiety-inducing roller coaster of exciting hockey until Filppula decided since he wasn’t getting any pucks in the net, he was going to shove the goalie in the net instead. He had a little help from Gardiner, but went overboard in the follow through and the Leafs went on the power play.
Apparently four on three was the answer to their power play woes. 90 seconds in Matthews sent the puck to Nylander, who put it on net for Kadri, who batted his own rebound in over Vasilevskiy.
So, Antoine Bibeau becomes the first Leafs backup to record a win this season, earning his first NHL win of his career. I’m still not convinced he’s anything more than a bandaid solution but a win is a win and I hope he had fun celebrating after the game.
- Nazem Kadri
- Brian Boyle
- Auston Matthews