In the first five games of the season the Leafs were a fun, flashy team to watch. Yes they only won a single game, but they never really trailed by a large score and every game was winnable, and almost all of the opponents (Boston, Ottawa, Winnipeg) were not teams anyone would worry about, while Minnesota is a playoff team and Chicago isn’t at peak dynasty mode at the moment, but could just be playing possum.
Tonight, however, the opponent was a Stanley Cup contender. The Tampa Bay Lightning are where the Maple Leafs want to be in a few years. A young offensive core that is fast, strong with and without the puck, with a solid defense and a above average goal tending.
This, however, is not the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are a young core with good defenders and below average goal tending. Lots of work is needed.
The Lightning are Eastern favourites, the Leafs are not. It showed. Andersen wasn’t on the ball tonight. Matt Hunwick needs to learn from the practice defender mannequins.
From the first puck drop the Tampa Bay Lightning controlled scoring for this game. Not even defensive superstar (in Babcock’s mind) Matt Hunwick could stop the mighty Bolts from putting the puck past Andersen 7 times.
The first was a weird play in the Leafs end where they attempted to clear the puck, but (and watching this multiple times it’s still hard to see) it stays in and slides down to Steven Stamkos, who is behind the Leafs defenders (Carrick / Hunwick) and he pots on easily.
Stamkos goal pic.twitter.com/L2xPVYWJYQ— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 25, 2016
Minutes later Alex Kilorn would score from the blue line, and near the end of the first Stamkos would net his second. Andersen wasn’t getting much help to see these coming, as the below tweets show his own team mates were working against him.
TB scoring chance, off the giveaway, Andersen races forward into the white paint, mashing himself against the screen. Cant see or move. pic.twitter.com/qLjpOeljCI— Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) October 26, 2016
Stamkos goal 2, Andersen sees nothing, again, and WHO IS THE LEAFS PLAYER JUMPING OUT OF THE WAY?! pic.twitter.com/pSTVORFVsQ— Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) October 26, 2016
Almost halfway through the second period Victor Hedman would catch a deflected puck from Stamkos and make it four nothing.
On the powerplay (Nikita Nesterov - stick holding) the Leafs took control. Some great passing around the Lightning end of the rink leads to Nylander roofs one past the toothless Bishop for the Leafs first goal of the night. The Lightning challenged the zone entry, claiming it was offside, but the goal stands.
Nylander goal pic.twitter.com/QqT7v3dasq— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 26, 2016
In the third period, Nikita Kucherov is at the faceoff dot in the Leafs end, passes the puck to Stamkos who takes it around the net and sends it off Matt Martins skate back to Kucherov who is in the same spot he stopped at, and he send sit past Bishop for his first of the season and Stamkos’ fourth point of the game. It looks like Andersen ducks out of the way of the puck here, and that is the opposite of his job.
The seventh goal of the night was one of the few in the Leafs favour, with a flurry of activity starting with Morgan Rielly stealing the puck from the Bolts at their own blue line, rushing in to go around Bishop, he sends the puck back to Zaitsev, who shoots and James van Reimsdyk redirects it into the net past Ben Bishop.
Goal number three for the Leafs comes off a Roman Polak dump in, followed by William Nylander taking it away from Brian Boyle and passing it to Auston Matthews who uses his five hole magnet to cut the lead to two.
Auston Matthews goal, Leafs trail 5-3 pic.twitter.com/TsN8CY9l7M— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 26, 2016
For Lightning goal #6, it was a power play marker from ex London Knight (so you know he’s here to be a jerk) Vladimir Namestinkov pots one in despite mighty Matt Hunwick trying to shove him into Andersen because defense? Babcock should have disputed that over goaltender interference.
The second goal of this power play (Marner got a double minor for high sticking) comes from Jonathan Drouin on a hard shot from the faceoff dot. 7-3 Lightning, and would hold as the final goal of the game.
How I thought the Leafs did:
Shades of last season, if those shades are black and grey past midnight on a moonless night, to get away from a bad metaphor it was almost the same thing. While the Leafs are at the beginning of a rebuild, we’re seeing some exciting play against non-contenders, hopefully lessons are being learned here by players and coaches of all caliber and by the end of the season we can get some of that excitement against cup contenders.
Peter Holland’s big moment of the game came when his shot went off Bishops helmet and knocked out some of the keepers teeth.
here is the shot that appears to have cost Bishop some teeth pic.twitter.com/Ge73XsJdt6— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 26, 2016
Boyle being a helpful teammate pic.twitter.com/lQvxqutOaq— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 26, 2016
The forwards were playing at the same tempo as they had in the past games, the Leafs led the game in shots by a wide margin (even keeping home shot counter in mind), however this time it couldn’t over power the bad defensive play.
The biggest flaws shown tonight were on the Leafs defensive game. Near the end of the second period the Leafs out numbered the Bolts four to two in their own zone, a perfect example of a time where the defensive team should easily clear the puck, the Leafs all converged on Stamkos, leaving Hedman alone with Andersen, luckily Andersen got his stick on the puck that time and knocked it away.
No one was truly a star tonight, and the lower end defenders were exposed even more so. Andersen wasn’t great yet again, so if that’s your game go ahead and sharpen your pitchforks.
So far this season Frederik Andersen hasn’t been the goalie that the front office must have expected him to be to instantly sign him to a 5 year deal. To summarize the feelings from twitter:
We’re seeing some weird things occur over this early season. The younger, less experienced NHLers, Matthews, Marner, Nyladner, Zaitsev are outperforming the Leafs who have been in the league for years. The defensive breakdowns are happening more for the vets than the kids, which is usually not the case in rebuilds. Now bad games happen every now and then, and tonight was one of them, despite shots and scoring chances being in the Leafs favour by a wide margin. Unlike last year I didn’t regret watching the game, and the players were keeping the tempo and chances up right to the very end, there wasn’t much quit on the ice from them this time around.
This is my recap, so my opinion is dominating things here. Maybe I’m being to harsh, maybe I’m not being harsh enough. I try to not sound too pessimistic about things, so if you’re on the “this is a playoff team” bandwagon, sorry for harshing your buzz there, but hey, it’s sports, we all see things different.
The next Maple Leafs game is Thursday night at 7:30PM against the Florida Panthers. James Reimer returns to the ACC for the first time since being traded away last season.
And now your moment of Matthews:
auston matthews dot gif pic.twitter.com/aArtaTfb0r— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 26, 2016