Game Review: Game #59, Leafs 4 vs. Lightning 1

Game Review: Game #59, Leafs 4 vs. Lightning 1

Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

An exciting game at Tampa Bay Times Forum tonight, as an ominous start by the Leafs, except for Jonathan Bernier, gave way to a better final 50 minutes and ultimately a good road win overall. For the 11th time this season and second time in three games, the Leafs outshot their opponent (36-34).

The Leafs brought the Lightning two points closer in the Atlantic Division thanks to this four-point swing, now sitting one point back of second in the Division. The Lightning still have two games in hand.

1st Period

– There was a frenzied pace to the first period, which started nearly as bad as the Panthers game for the Leafs. Easy zone entries for Tampa were followed by sustained pressure as the Leafs were completely hemmed in under the Tampa forecheck. Jonathan Bernier was there with the bailing bucket, time and again. Only way you survive these kind of starts is great goaltending, and the Leafs sure have it.

–  Among the three or four great scoring chances for the Lightning in the early going, the best one was an instance of the Leafs getting burned while attempting to execute the overload system in the defensive zone. Playing the bee-swarm system around the puck carries the inherent risk of open space if the puck gets to the other side.  In this case the Leafs were caught on a wide open chance in the slot for Kucherov, who had a ton of space to walk in and rip one on net. I think Bernier somehow got a piece of this.

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 10

–  The Leafs’ first shift spent with any sustained possession in the ozone came from the first line 13 minutes in.

–  Bodie’s ability to draw a penalty was big for salvaging a first period that looked to be heading toward a Lightning lead.  After Ranger broke up a play inside the blueline, Bodie showed great hustle in a race to the puck at the offensive zone blueline before placing a hard shot on goal. He didn’t admire his shot, hustling down the loose puck behind the net and putting another hard shot on goal that gave Bishop trouble. Somewhere in the sequence the Leafs earned a holding call.

– No goal came of it, but some strong pressure by the Leafs’ PP included about a minute and a half of sustained possession and puck movement, a goal mouth scramble, and 4 shots overall. This seemed to help the Leafs gain a foothold in the game.

– This was one of Clarkson’s better periods since arriving in Toronto. While the Leafs started that game in shambles, Clarkson was one of few who stood out in a positive light. He willed the puck up the ice a couple of times when the Leafs just couldn’t seem to get themselves moving north south and out of their end. He also hustled down a breakaway chance toward the end of the period but couldn’t get it by Bishop.

2nd Period

– Bernier needed to stand tall again early in the second after Kessel turned it over at the offensive zone blueline, leading to a rush down the wing. Bernier made a save there that looked easier than it was.. A good glove save on a shot from in tight that was headed for the far side.

– A good rush from Rielly a little while later, as he intercepted a sloppy stretch pass from a Lightning D. He rushed up ice and created a goal mouth scramble, nearly picking up a loose puck to jam in but Bishop was looking just as sharp as Bernier in the first two periods.

– There were so many grade A scoring chances given up in this game at both ends of the rink. Bernier and Bishop were going head to head in a competition of “anything you can do, I can do better.” End to end stuff with some dubious displays of defensive hockey.

– A breakthrough finally came. Kulemin, doing an admirable job filling in as a centerman, found Raymond in stride through the neutral zone as he burned the Lightning D wide and roofed a backhand finish. I think that puck would’ve ended up in the crowd if there wasn’t a net there.

– That’s Raymond’s 15th goal of the season, so he could reasonably hit 20 this year with 5 in his final 22. I couldn’t get behind him as a consistent top six installment, but he seems to fit best as a guy who can bring speed and secondary offense to a checking/energy line alongside two capable grinders. Can’t argue with the production or understate its impact, even if he is a frustrating player to watch some nights.

– The Leafs were leading the shot count for most of the period, and were having success gaining speed through neutral zone, taking advantage of some Tampa Bay turnovers and getting a transition game going.

– Phil Kessel ripped one from the slot I was sure would be his 31st of the season, but Bishop somehow held onto it with no rebound. He then sent a gorgeous stretch pass to Bozak for a breakaway, but Bishop gave Bozak nothing there. They wouldn’t have to deal with the big guy much longer…

3rd Period

– A fortunate break for the Leafs as an upper body injury troubling Bishop took him out of the action while Cedrick Desjardins took over the Lightning crease.

– Clarkson, who showed ample jump tonight, put to use some good speed through the neutral zone to gain the zone. What looked like a broken play saw the puck fall to McClement wide open in front, and McClement pulled off an unexpected forehand-to-one-arm-backhand move in tight to give the Leafs an invaluable two-goal cushion. McClement’s second goal (and point) in the last 22 games.

Two points in two games since returning for Clarkson. Small signs of promise here that the stretch drive may be a different story for him.

– Watching the Dads celebrate their kids’ goals is awesome.

– The deceptively quick Bodie took a pass from Raymond and surged through the middle for a breakaway on the counter attack after a big pad save by Bernier. This newfangled Bodie, Raymond and Kulemin (as a center) line looked pretty good tonight. Kulemin is the Leafs’ most defensively-aware/responsible winger and so the experiment seemed to work out. Points for creativity to Carlyle, but maybe we should’ve tried this when our entire center group was injured and suspended (kidding).

– On the topic of some of the lineup decisions tonight… Maybe someone can point to an instance of 7 D working effectively, but I’m not exactly sure Ranger could provide in that role given his circumstances (having not played). Maybe it was a testament to how bad the 4th line options were, or Carlyle felt the need to get him into a game (also against Tampa, his former team). He just seemed to be popping into random pairings and messing things up far as I could tell. And I’m not specifically attacking Ranger here… it’s difficult to pop back into a game after missing a big run of them in a row and be up to speed, let alone when he’s rotated around onto various pairings.

– Update: Noticed in the post game Ranger said getting into this game “meant a lot” to him personally, from an emotional standpoint.

– The top line added to the lead six minutes after the McClement goal. After a clean breakout with Bozak gaining the zone entry, JvR forced a turnover down low, and Kessel sent a great pass to the point for Gunnarsson from behind the net. A rebound off of Gunnarsson’s point shot was batted in by JvR for his 23rd of the season. This guy is blessed when it comes to stick-eye coordination.

– Carl Gunnarsson has seven assists in his past 14 games and five shots in his last four games after registering one assist in the first 27 games of the season. Definitely noticing more offensive involvement lately. Besides the assist off his point shot, he ended up behind the goal line on one play and also went on a solo rush with a couple of nice moves.

– The Leafs seemed to be comfortable in the third, and stayed comfortable even after conceding the 3-1 goal. Speedster Ondrej Palat split Phaneuf and Gunnarsson and ruined Bernier’s shutout (one of Phaneuf or Gunnarsson should’ve just taken whatever piece they could of Palat there and accepted the penalty).

Point is, it was a far cry from the way the Leafs were closing out games a few weeks ago. This one never felt in doubt at 3-1 as the Leafs continued to take it to the Lightning for some more scoring opportunities, including a second Clarkson breakaway and a Kessel/JVR goalmouth scramble. This also helped keep the shot count slightly in the Leafs’ favour which is a make-it-or-break-it deal, y’know.

– An exciting game seemed done and dusted after a Tyler Bozak empty netter, before Bernier got ran into and Gleason completely snapped. It doesn’t matter whether TJ Brown was simply driving the net with his head down, or if Rielly helped him in, the point is that the opposition needs to fear and second guess driving the Leaf net. Gleason’s response there was awesome, his fists flying and his face looking absolutely furious. The way Gleason competes is just plain “angry.” This game was bookended by some nasty physicality from #8; the first shift of the game featured him hammering a pair of Lightning players to the ice when battling along the boards. It’s no-nonsense when this guy enters a puck battle.

To have this element in a player who can also be a positive contributor between the whistles is an endearing quality. Here’s a great quote from an interview with Gleason’s dad, Kevin, the other day:

“That’s how he’s always played since he was 10 years old. I don’t know why, he should’ve been a goalie for god’s sakes. I don’t know why he does it, half of it. He enjoys getting into it, he loves the last minute of the game when he’s leading 1-0, and that’s how he plays.”


Fenwick chart for 2014-02-06 Maple Leafs 4 at Lightning 1

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning Boxscore


Ben Bishop (27-8-4)22210.95540:00:00
Cedrick Desjardins (0-1-0)L13110.84618:02
Mark Barberio0014:21010000010
Eric Brewer0017:12-100001302
J.T. Brown0012:57052010110
Matthew Carle0021:26020000100
Jean-Philippe Cote009:05030000000
B.J. Crombeen0013:24-110003000
Valtteri Filppula0014:48-2001140010
Radko Gudas0016:51-1212003011
Victor Hedman0023:27-230003200
Tyler Johnson0119:050001460010
Alex Killorn0016:17-110420002
Nikita Kucherov0015:34-110000100
Ryan Malone0014:23-130000001
Ondrej Palat1019:13030004000
Teddy Purcell0017:32-360000010
Sami Salo0016:26-210001001
Martin St. Louis0120:18-100250001
Nate Thompson0017:390201342000


Jonathan Bernier (21-16-5)W34330.97160:00:00
Troy Bodie0012:21150001000
Tyler Bozak1019:071507110110
David Clarkson0118:49150001010
Cody Franson0015:23000005000
Jake Gardiner0016:16030002200
Tim Gleason0019:111114001411
Carl Gunnarsson0118:15120001000
Nazem Kadri0017:540105100001
Phil Kessel0221:58150000012
Nikolai Kulemin0116:491103112120
Joffrey Lupul0122:31120011001
Jay McClement109:591107100000
Frazer McLaren003:12000000000
Dion Phaneuf0022:12110003400
Paul Ranger0012:52100004203
Mason Raymond1015:25120000200
Morgan Rielly0115:51210000200
James van Riemsdyk1020:12110010001

Game in 6: Leafs at Lightning


so many moves before the "deadline" 

these GMs better slow down or there won't be any moves left for the real deadline

Marlies Man
Marlies Man

So Gary Leeman and Al Iafrate are both playing in a NHL Legends fundraiser here in my hometown in NL tonight. Guess that bust up over their wives in the 80s is water under the bridge.


Couple Thoughts (im sure some of this has already been said so cut me some slack):

1. Great win, sketchy start. Most of the teams behind us won too so we gotta spank the cafucks on Saturday too

2. Thanks for Gleason Carolina. Tough, mean, gritty, not a turn over machine. 4 mil is high but at least he fits on our team

3. I like Franson, but holy shit something is up. -15 (i know its not all telling stat, but...) and huge mistakes nightly. Still putting up points and crushing guys though. Curious about his future and contract demands. Don't envy Nonis this Summer

4. I never really thought we should get Bernier, I was wrong. We should have. I can see Reimer being traded this summer as i don't think he like the back up bit. Still think a team like the Isles or Oilers will overpay us. And if Bernier goes down this season we know we've got a pissed of Menonite to steal us some games

5. Clarkson's looking better and Kadri and Lupul are at least noticeable offensively every game

6. Where the fuck did that come from JMC? What a goal!

7. Raymond scored a beauty, I would still trade him for a late first if we get the chance though. He'll want a raise this summer

8. Paul Ranger scares me when he is on the ice. All excuses aside, Penthouse was very right

9. Kessel is one of the most unselfish pure goal scorers i've ever seen. Hustling on d last night too.

10. Go Leafs Go, I fucking the Canucks, their GM, coach and most of their team. Lets kick them well they're down


Kessel and JVR leaving for Sochi on Sunday then?


afternoon gents ....

any trade speculation ??

pretty sure leafs dont have to do anything since bolland just stayin on ltir ..correct ?


Too bad for Letang, fingers crossed, but at the high level these guys are required to play at, relying on blood thinners to survive or to continue seems very dangerous.  Hope the best for him.  Im sure his overall health is fine, but hockey life is way different than a normal life.


I have not checked in on the twitter machine today. Have a feeling my timeline is going to be absolutely full of olympic nonsense that I couldn't care less about


the trade freeze is on right? no deals until after the olympic break?


@Belfour20  that goal was nuts for a guy who doesnt seem to ahve much offense most nights. Hell, great goal for Crosby to have scored. Beat


Van's a mess so I hope they don't come up with some stupid extra effort prove the critics wrong games. Hopefully Luos mind is on Sochi.

I was talking to some Canes fans on their website and they say they are happy Gleason is playing well, they like him so much. They figured change of scene might do it. They say Liles has filled a gap for a puck handling dman.

Franson's a difficult one because he's still only 26 and if he could straighten out the quirks, big right handed defencemen with a decent point shot don't grow on trees.

I wouldn't move Reimer unless just yet unless we get a great offer.

Clarkson will be fine. I don't care what he's being paid. Or anyone else for that matter.

JMC pulled a move like that last year too that everyone talked about for a few days after.

I don't know about a high return on a Raymond trade since he'll be up for grabs for free in the summer.

I though it was a great team gesture to put Ranger into the game in Tampa, his first time there since leaving the game of hockey altogether when he was with the Lightening. Guys on the team pick up on stuff like that.

Kessel is only two years and a bit older than Andrew MacWilliams, one of our "kids" on the Marlies. Lots to look forward to.


@peterbleafs blood thinners for an athlete engaged in a sport involving hard edged rubber discs, sharp skates and unforgiving ice and boards?  Yeah, doesn't sound like a good idea to me. 


They're speculating it had to do with a small hole in his heart that he's had from birth. Apparently it's a common thing but most seal themselves. It will be interesting to see what the docs say about returning to the physical demands of the NHL.


I don't think the deadline is that much of a cutoff because GMs can keep negotiating and making deals through the freeze, they just can't make it official with the legue or move players.


They can still make deals. Just can't finalize them.

Marlies Man
Marlies Man

@mlclearwater @Belfour20 I remember reading a few stories when he signed with us that he was a decent offensive guy and put up good numbers in the OHL. His old coaches were interviewed saying how he had deceptive skils. Looking at HockeyDB there now and he did put up 51 points in 79 games in the AHL one year early on. Nice move last night, but damn, doesn't looked very skilled most of the time to me. Brings his pickaxe most nights tho.


@dlb eh @mlclearwater  He's tough on the body and has a cannon for a shot, he made one play last night that my 2 yr old wouldn't have made though. Where he passed it right in front of our net to a member of the lightning. All rust and self doubt aside, some awful plays from him, not that he is alone on our team for that


@Xxxxxnew Right, thats what I heard as well.  Only reason to trade now is to spare some team from paying out one paycheck.  Cheap ass team like the Isles might force an early one to save; wait a minute, they did yesterday, didn't they? 


I saw a clip of Carlyle alone with gardiner on the ice a few months ago where Carlyle had a clip board out showing the kid a few plays. He was even taking Gardiner into the boards in slow motion showing him how to lock the guy up so he can't slip by if the puck squirts goes by him. gardiner said afterward Carlyle told him if he makes a stupid mistake with the puck to just forget it and play the next shift like it never happened. At the same time there were people here saying carlyle hated Gardiner.


That wasn't the safest play to make, but I could see he was trying to pop the puck loose to one of our forwards who was circling in the corner but was expecting him to roll it up the boards instead.


@Xxxxxnew No, just speculating as to why a deal might be finalized today.  In doing so , the rationale for the Isles deal yesterday came to me.  Snow might have saved, like, $50000 to $100000 bucks for his team by finalizing the deal before the freeze


I don't think they can actually file it with the league once the freeze starts so they can't save any money. But they can continue to talk and hammer out details while the freeze is on.


@MaxwellHowe @CanuckUKinToronto I didn't think they could. There are also further restrictions based on # of games played in over last # of games plus some others. I can't remember it all though