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

  • Shift_Disturber1

    Yay team. ;P Thanks for the recap Alex. Always nice to read these but particularly  when I miss the game.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    how sick was raymonds backhand shelf too….pure filth

  • Xxxxxnew

    Enjoyed watching the interviews with the dad’s of Clarkson, Gleason and Bolland on the Leafs website.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    This is really something from Good luck to Kris Letang —

  • Shift_Disturber1

    Pretty fun to see all Leafs
    dads partying it up in the hallways outside dressing room tonight. Has
    to be one of best feelings as an NHLer.

  • Jmessih

    Xxxxxnew Gleason’s dad interview was a pretty good one.

  • Jmessih
    Tonight’s story on another impressive Leafs win, with the dads cheering in the stands

  • felixjvd

    Why are so many on this forum in support of getting rid of Raymond?  I don’t get it.  Tonight’s goal was a beauty.  Tremendous skill and he has wheels.  I think he deserves a little more credit.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Because he doesn’t play like Wendel.

  • Ian from Etobicoke

    Jmessih Why would we read that? ^^^^ much better

  • Jmessih

    Atta be Bernier for setting up for yourself and props to Bodie for jumping in hard as well.

  • wiski

    Dangle_My_Berries  Where did McClement find those mitts

  • Ze_theLeafsFan

    felixjvd  For myself because I want Kulemin over Raymond. I don’t think there will be two of the, I think he will also net a good return, maybe better than Kulemin as his cap is lower and he has more points.

  • Tim Horton

    felixjvd  Amazing for 1 mil. Would be terrible to waste 3 or so mil on next year, which is probably what he will want based on his stats.

  • Ze_theLeafsFan

    felixjvd  He deserves credit for making the best of his opportunities. I don’t hate him or anything.

  • Ze_theLeafsFan

    Jmessih  love it

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Jmessih  sergeant tim doesn’t like when recruits get out of line.

  • Xxxxxnew

    I don’t think we’ll get that much for a guy who will be UFA in a few months.

  • Tim Horton

  • Xxxxxnew

    I seem to remember he pulled a nice move last year that had everyone commenting. Can’t visualize what he did though.

  • wiski

    Jmessih  Best part of the game

  • Xxxxxnew

    Tim doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.

  • Jay31

    @coreypronman had some interesting tweets about Andreas Johnson today.
    He said he thinks he could be our “best prospect”
    Also said “try very good. Outscoring a first round pick and high 2nd from his own age group. Better scoring rate than Zibanejad (year younger)”
    “was among the better Fs at the WJC on a scouting and performance level. Very impressive prospect.”
    And believes he has top 6 potential

    Obviously theres always the risk with Euros that they won’t succeed on NA ice but still nice to hear such praise about a 7th round pick.

  • wiski

    Xxxxxnew  If he keeps that up the forth line is lookin good

  • sniperstar

    My only problem with Gleason attacking Brown was Bernier could have handled him by himself 😉

  • sniperstar

    Xxxxxnew  Curl and dragged around a guy to his backhand and put it 5hole on the goalie if i remember correctly.

  • Ze_theLeafsFan

    Xxxxxnew  I hear LA is looking for a scoring winger. I think he could be an attractive option. Like a 2nd rounder + 5th rounder or something

  • Ze_theLeafsFan

    Tim Horton felixjvd  yeah he will demand more money. I would have rather kept MacArthur at that money. Fans will turn on him once he makes more money because of his inconsistency

  • Uncle Otis

    Nice recap boss…helluva win tonight.
    As much as the FLA game was a total team stinkout,this was a full team win.
    Only constant was Bernie’s outstanding play.
    Oh,and MLSE must be trolling us as moving Bodie up and inserting Ranger was mentioned..and voila!
    Ranger’s biggest contribution was lighting a fire under Franny’s ass who had his best game in ages
    Taped Stephen’s talking spread sheets and calculus on CBC earlier..will post tomorrow if somebody else didn’t
    It’ll be hookers and firetrucks in Tampa tonight!!!!!

  • Hmmm

    Jmessih  Anyone read lips?  What went on between Kulie and the TB trainer?

  • Leafbites

    Tonight’s recap brought to you by Timmy Gleason, SNAP. I can see the exhilaration in the author’s typing. Good night, diehards.

  • lukethenuke

    All I can say is Im glad Gleason is working out.  I was one of VERY few who supported him and the move, while everyone else shat negativity about him and how he is struggling and done in the NHL.  I knew this guy is a champ and knew I could count on him bouncing back.  Atta be Timmy G.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    @Hmmm Jmessih  Kuli is a good sportsman. He was making sure the man Gleason wrecked is going to be OK.

  • DeclanK

    Jay31  Pronman is a bit of a Charlatan. Take his words with a few grains of salt.

  • Black_Hawk


  • Black_Hawk

    Kessel is still a beast

  • Black_Hawk

    man wish clarky could have got that break away, he would of taken off for sure after that

  • Black_Hawk

    How is franson the team leader in hits and 2nd in the league?

  • Black_Hawk

    nice goal by jay lol

  • Black_Hawk


  • Black_Hawk

    Lets keep it going for SAT against VAN

  • Xxxxxnew

    @markhmasters: Paul Ranger emotional about return to TB; says it means a lot he got to play; grateful to Carlyle

  • Xxxxxnew

    @markhmasters: Gleason was still fuming about how Gudas went after him in scrum when Tim was engaged with Brown

  • Xxxxxnew

    @mirtle: Frazer McLaren can barely walk here. Could be busted foot/toe maybe. Doesn’t look good.

  • Hmmm

    Dangle_My_Berries Jmessih  Gleason is a beast!  We’ll need that toughness especially in the playoffs.

  • Black_Hawk

    @Hmmm Dangle_My_Berries Jmessih  always liked that deal

  • JWaterdrager

    Shift_Disturber1  Except Kadris dad, he was burning some jerseys.

  • Optimustic

    Black_Hawk  It seems they count a face palm as a hit too.

  • Burtonboy

    Will Carlyle now accept the uselessness of a 4th line that has Smithson and 2 face punchers on it . Our best stretch of hockey this year has been when he played McClement on the 4th line and sat at least one of Orr or McLaren. I know some people will say 4 th lines don’t win you games. True if you are simply looking at pt production but being able to allow your other 3 lines some breathing room with less minutes can make a huge difference in the final 5 mins of a game.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Yesterday I slagged McClement and endlessly promoted the notion of trading Kulimen and Raymond and Gunnersson.  And they all played perhaps their best game of the year.  Still think Raymond or Kulimen will be traded.  Good to see their trade value may be increased.