Game in 10: Game 71, Leafs at Lightning
We might be the worst team in the NHL over the last 15 games but we still have Tampa Bay’s number. Join us after the jump for the game in tank ten.
1 - The Leafs are 31-32-8 and it’s rather amusing a Guy Boucher coached team couldn’t figure out, in four attempts, the formula for slowing down the Leafs. The Lightning afforded the Leafs a ton of time and space, left the neutral zone relatively unclogged, and paid dearly for it. Granted, the Lightning have resorted to trying to outscore the opponents this season without quality goaltending to lean on – and sit last in the league in goals against.
2 - I like the 24-year-old Reimer so far. He was full value for his near-shutout tonight and put an exclamation mark on his performance with post-to-post right pad robbery on a third period Lightning power play. His reading of the play was night and day different from Tuesday night and his movements seemed less robotic overall. He was making saves out there, not just blocking shots.
3 - A rare good start from the Leafs sees JM Liles put the real Blue and White team up 1-0 on the powerplay. That’s only Liles’ fourth point in 21 games since returning from concussion. He had 21 in his first 34 prior to injury. Pair it with the similarly sharp decline in Reimer’s numbers pre- and post-concussion and you start to wonder if these guys really need the off-season in order to get back to their better selves.
It’s worth noting Liles also suffered a concussion at the end of last season with the Avalanche and hit the ground running at the beginning of this season.
4 - It was nice, I guess, to see some of this team’s supposed “veteran leadership” that had been so absent during this catastrophic slump finally show up and produce. I know they can’t be expected to not try, but something about the likes of Lombardi, Connolly and Liles showing up once it’s too late pisses me off. Does it make sense that I’m pissed at these professional hockey players for doing something tonight given it’s their job? Probably not, but I’m bitter.
5 - Since the goal scoring dried up, the tendency to get too cute and make poor pass/shot selections has been an issue, but the Tampa Bay defensive zone coverage is so loose it actually worked tonight – on both of the first two goals.
6 - The decision by the Tampa defenseman to sprawl out into the corner and the weak save attempt by Tokarski aside, Gardiner put on a show for the Leafs’ 3-0 goal. Lombardi initiated the break up ice with a small but neat bounce pass off the boards, Gardiner chipped it off the wall to beat one Lightning player, toe dragged to pull it past the sprawling defenceman, and found a hole in Tokarski.
7 - The Steckel – Connolly – Crabb lineÂ did a good job keeping the Purcell, Stamkos and St. Louis line in their own end for significant durations, and the five man unit with Phaneuf and Gunnarsson did a clean job against them in their own zone. Phaneuf getting Stamkos to spas was cute.
8 – Always nice playing the Lightning and feeling a little better about our own defense and goaltending situations.
9 - The draft position implications – the win keeps the Leafs at seventh last for the time being, but only four points out of third from bottom. The Hurricanes won tonight and remain one point back of the Leafs, but the Isles lost.
10 - Well, they had to win eventually and more concerning than the negative implications on the draft position would be if the team folded on the rest of the season without putting in some good efforts. A 3-1 win and a good shut down third period – with the Leafs reverting to a 1-4 in the final frame – is what we’ll hope to see more of going forward under Carlyle.