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Tampa takes a close and fast game 3-1 over the Leafs

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Both teams gave a good impression of trying hard in a game that mattered to neither of them.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jake!

The only highlight to this game is that Jake Gardiner is back. Nazem Kadri is being rested, which is called load management by people who invent silly words for things. Jake Muzzin is still sick, and Andreas Johnsson is not.

First Period

Jake makes some mistakes right away, and suddenly all is right with the world. Leafs end up with the first shot, and that really is how the world looks when Jake is where he belongs.

If the hockey gods will it, and the Leafs get into a playoff series with Tampa, the refs should demand an extra guy. This game is so fast, so up and down, that there’s no way any penalty can get called, the ref is gasping five feet behind the play.

Suddenly, out of the track meet, Mitch Marner has the puck and he’s off up the ice, and you can see the pass coming, you can draw the line on the ice. And he shoots it. Sweet, sweet shot.

1-0 Leafs

So naturally, they speed the game up some.

William Nylander is looking good at centre in for Kadri, and Connor Brown is reminding me just how tough he can be on the forecheck.

Brayden Point tries to use his speed and discovers an entire team keeping up with him, but Andersen has to be perfect on a shot set up by Nikita Kucherov because the Leafs aren’t suddenly better at exiting the zone.

Calle Rosen is having some trouble reacting fast enough to make a good pass in this chaos.

Hyman in alone, can’t get a shot off.

Then Matthews gets a centering pass out to Marleau just by force of will. Beautiful play.

Whoa. Andersen has to poke the puck back out to his own man on a Tampa rush, and then the Leafs accelerate off to get a shot on Vasilevskiy.

Matthews with a good chance, and I’m not sure if Vasilevskiy looks all that on in this game. He’s done some funky things.

Leafs have backed off the frantic pace a little and are riding along with Tampa, keeping pace, but not really driving the play.

The fourth line gives way to the Tavares line at the end of the period, and there’s some long bombs from the blueline, and not much else.

Numbers

There’s a lot of long bombs from both sides so far, and the Expected Goals difference is one Stamkos shot.

Thoughts

Have you, like me, grown tired of the “not starting on time” meme? Well no worries in this game.

Tampa have a very good fourth line and the Leafs stood up to them well, unlike in some recent games where they were terrible.

The Rielly-Hainsey pair are working the most time, but Rosen and Dermott are playing more than Gardiner-Zaitsev, so Jake is easing his way in.

I can’t possibly exaggerate the pace of this game, so easing some players in is a wise move.

Second Period

The Leafs ice the puck twice early in the second as they’ve lost their timing a little. That happens, they’ll get it back.

Jeez. Matthews has a wide-open net, and Vasilevskiy gets over in time. Great save.

Braydon Cobrn takes a penalty, and the Leafs get a power play with Nylander on the top unit in for Kadri.

And dammit. Stamkos on the PK gets the puck and goes off on a breakout and scores. That’s our trick.

1-1 tie game

This is not a good power play. They’re way too easy to disrupt and they get one decent chance in tight.

Trevor Moore gives the Bolts a chance to show off their power play. And I’m so sick of hearing how bad the Leafs power play is, like now on the broadcast, by people who think success percentage is the whole story. I’m going to look this up right now on Offside Review.

The Expected Goals per 60 minutes on the power play has the following top five:

  1. Carolina: 3.15
  2. Vegas: 2.98
  3. Tampa: 2.83
  4. Toronto: 2.78
  5. Calgary: 2.75

So the Leafs and the Bolts are virtually identical. Do the Bolts have more shooting talent? Maybe, but that’s debatable across both units. All people are seeing with success percentage is shooting percentage differences. Also, if Carolina had a scoring winger of some sort, they’d be deadly. How’s Jeff Skinner doing? Booking golf dates, I guess.

Enough of that, the power play is on, and the Leafs have the puck.

Marner dekes and dives on a shorthanded amble (not really a rush) and he draws a penalty. So I guess the Bolts power play was bad, they didn’t score.

The story of this Leafs power play is the story of this game, really. Tampa is really good at zone entry denial and at getting the puck just inside their own blueline.

Andersen out as far as Oshawa to make a stop on a Stamkos shot.

The Leafs finish the period with some offence interrupted fairly easily, but nothing much coming back the other way from Tampa.

Thoughts

Mitch Marner has been fun to watch, but the Tavares line is really kind of bad. They’ve been matched with the Point-Kucherov line, and they are not winning the battle.

This period was a little dull, but this was fun:

This was not:

Third Period

If this game goes to OT, someone will answer for it, is all I’m saying right now.

Leafs start out buzzing the Bolts net.

Wow. Zaitsev with one of those long bombs that looks dangerous.

The Bolts answer back with some buzzing of their own.

Ahhhh. It’s so nice to see Zaitsev send the puck to Gardiner, and then they go up ice. Much better than Muzzin passing over to Zaitsev. Zaitsev often looks confused by that move of Muzzin’s, and well he should.

Marner with a chance and he gets dumped mid-shot. Which is totally fine. I guess.

Dammit. JT with a chance off a Marner pass that he just has to settle first. Even when they’re getting tanked in Corsi, they play hot offence.

The game has ramped up to frantic in pace again.

Andersen is giving up rebounds and then making the save. Fair enough.

JT showing why he’s getting tanked in Corsi as he struggles to get away from Yanni Gourde.

There’s nine minutes left. In a tied playoff game, this is where the better team ups their game a little. Will either team try tonight?

Stamkos tries and is thwarted, Matthews tries and Vasilevskiy makes the save.

JT gets sprung on a great pass from Rielly, but no joy.

I don’t think there’s two players on this ice working harder than Trevor Moore and Tyler Ennis.

Bah.

After a lot of Leafs pressure, and right when I was complimenting the good parts of the fourth line, Gauthier turns it over and then, bah. Alex Killorn scores.

2-1 Tampa

Marleau with a chance right back, but he’s no Alex Killorn. Also, no scoring unless you’re getting two here, Leafs. No overtime.

Andersen goes off with over two minutes left.

Matthews tries the wraparound jam, but nope.

Marleau in the slot, but nope.

Kucherov gets the ENG and ruins any sill plans the Leafs had to tie it up. But man, did they come close.

3-1 Tampa

Thoughts

Play the Habs twice as hard on Saturday. That’s all I want.