After a nearly flawless performance in front of their first home playoff crowd in over two years, the Maple Leafs should expect more of an even-strength battle tonight against a more desperate Tampa team as they attempt to hold serve on home ice and put the Lightning in a 2-0 hole (7:30 p.m. EST, Sportsnet/CBC).
Jon Cooper emphasized the role of special teams in the loss and seemed to write the defeat off as a bit of a “freaky” game overall. There is a degree of fairness to that knowing the Lightning’s more characteristic excellence on special teams and the unusually high amount of power-play time. The Lightning entered the postseason with power-play goals in eight straight, and this is a rightfully proud Tampa group who has earned the confidence to state that Game 1 was not an indication of the series to come. The Leafs need to be ready for a response while knowing the game could have as much as 20 more minutes of 5v5 time than there was Game 1.
From the Leafs‘ side of it, they should feel great not only about their special-teams execution but also that they outscored Tampa 3-0 at 5v5 along with a 55% share of the 5v5 expected goals. Shot attempts were in Tampa’s favour 44-33, but there are second and third-period score effects at play there, and the real and expected goals battles show that the Leafs got to the critical areas of the ice offensively while protecting theirs defensively, making life harder on Andrei Vasilievsky and easier on Jack Campbell.
Shutting out a team like the Lightning in a playoff game where they had a full 11 minutes of power-play time is a notable accomplishment. In fact, some of the PKs were so one-sided in favour of Toronto that it has to be in the heads of the Tampa players entering Game 2. That’s a mental edge the Leafs will want to build on and cement further rather than allowing Tampa to regain their confidence in man-advantage situations.
Now it’s about turning the page with the awareness that one game does not a series make. If the Leafs can keep the Lightning scoreless early in this game, the frustration factor will start to creep in for any team — even the back-to-back Cup champs.
Lineup Notes: Bunting returns
With the surprising news that he was playing despite a battle with food poisoning during Game 1, William Nylander’s solid showing in the series opener is all the more impressive. As Sheldon Keefe noted, it also explains why he wasn’t as effective as the game went on, but Nylander’s jump from the get-go in Game 1 meant he narrowly led the team in individual and on-ice expected goals over the 60 minutes.
Nylander is earning the reputation of a player who has stepped up his intensity from shift to shift during the playoffs. Coming back healthier tonight, he will need to be a factor again as the Leafs deploy him down the lineup — away from the Matthews and Tavares lines — in an attempt to drive more offense from the third line and exploit secondary matchups. With so little five-on-five play on Monday happening while the game was close, Nylander didn’t spend much time in Game 1 on his line with David Kampf and Pierre Engvall.
With certain personnel playing more than expected on both sides of the matchup due to the number of penalties handed out, the regular combinations were all over the place for both teams. Entering the third period up 4-0 meant Keefe went back to the shutdown trio of Pierre Engvall, David Kampf, and Ilya Mikheyev that, due to the lack of even-strength play the first 40 minutes, ended up with the highest five-on-five ice time of any Toronto line.
The flow, feel, and TOI distribution of the game should be much different tonight not only in terms of increased 5v5 action (where the two teams played just 31 minutes last game) but also with Michael Bunting’s return shaking up the lines. Bunting will return to his usual spot on the top line, while Alex Kerfoot slides down to John Tavares’ wing. That gives Ondrej Kase the opportunity to take advantage of easier matchups with Colin Blackwell and Wayne Simmonds on one of the more skilled fourth-line combinations the Leafs have deployed this season; notably absent, however, is Jason Spezza for the second-straight game.
All-Situations xGoals — Game 1
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the impact of Michael Bunting’s return:
I think it’ll have a positive impact. He’s had a positive impact on our team all season. Of course, he’s an important part of our top line and he makes us a deeper group. We can slot Kerfoot into a different spot. All that makes us a better team
Sheldon Keefe on William Nylander playing Game 1 despite food poisoning:
He did it and he played well. In that first period especially, he got his feet moving and got in behind the defense. That’s when he’s at his best.
He maybe ran out of gas a little bit in the second half of the game, and that’s the reason why he didn’t practice with us yesterday. He wanted to practice on his own, manage his energy, and make sure he could get food and fluids into him, which he wasn’t able to do up until yesterday.
He did a good job. That’s playoffs.
Keefe on Jon Cooper’s view that the Lightning didn’t play well enough in Game 1:
I don’t coach Tampa. He’s going to have his thoughts and his opinions on his team, of course. It’s probably not unlike when we were down there and lost 8-1. He probably felt good about what his team did and I didn’t feel good about what we did. It’s natural for a coach to do that.
We obviously did a lot of good things in the hockey game that we can build upon, but, at the same time, that’s not the Tampa team that we prepared for. We’re expecting to see that team tonight.
Keefe on how deep the Leafs roster is now that they’re nearly fully healthy:
It’s nice to have options here. To have both Bunting and Kase come into the series here makes a big difference for us.
Then, on defense, it’s the same with the depth that we have there, too, and in goal. All of that, this time of year, is what you want to have.
We have to maintain that, but, at the same time, we feel like we have support in the event that something occurs.
Keefe on Jake Muzzin’s performance in Game 1, in particular on the PK:
Obviously, he was called on a ton early in the game on the penalty kill to do a job there. I thought he was poised in that moment to go out and get the job done.
A player like Jake, with his experience, he’s not rattled by that situation, he goes out there, and he knows what his job is.
Giordano and Brodie are just the same. It’s a very similar type of demeanour. They just go out and play. From that end of it, Jake did a great job in Game 1.
Keefe on Jack Campbell:
When he’s at his best, he just looks confident. He makes the easy saves look easy and some of the difficult ones, too.
At times, you felt like you’d given up a real good chance, there’s a clear shot, and he just calmly made the save and froze the puck most of the time. At times, he was out of position because they made a good play, but he finds a way to get to those, too.
Those are the things that he does really well when he’s at his best.
Keefe on whether he expects the building to be as energetic tonight as it was for Game 1:
I think they’re going to follow it up and do the same today. I don’t how many people will be coming into the building for the second time in the series or how many [will be] new people. Even in the regular season — you look at Auston’s chase for 50 then 60 and the reaction of the crowd — you can see how the crowd is really embracing the team.
No matter who’s in the building tonight, I’m hopeful and expecting it’s going to be more of the same because it made a difference.
You walk out onto the bench and the seats are all full for the anthem. Everybody’s there and ready to go. That’s not always the case here, and it’s not an easy building to get to with a lot happening in the city. You could tell last game that the fans were ready and that really helped our team be ready.
Keefe on whether the Leafs’ PK needs to be careful with their aggression going forward:
I think so. That’s part of it. We’ve made it very clear to our players that our primary goal is to kill the penalty. That has to be at the top of the list every time.
When we have to chance to make a play under a lot of pressure and force a play versus just getting it down the ice, we need to [do the ladder]. If you don’t quite have a full tank and you need to get off the ice, you need [to do that] and not overextend your shift.
We’ve been caught in that situation a couple of times, but we’ve had enough discussions about it. I think our players know what the expectations are. Having the additional depth with the penalty killers helps a lot, too, because we’ve added more guys into the rotation.
Kase has been helpfu. He can take reps. Not only are we quick and have skill, but we also have more guys that are fresh.
Jon Cooper on how the crowd affected his team in Game 1:
I don’t think it had a negative or positive effect on us either way. I did like the environment, though.
Playing in this city quite a bit, regular season games are different. Sometimes the crowd strolls in — [especially] in the lower bowl. They definitely were not late, so that was a lot of fun to see, and the place was alive. It was a sweet environment.
Cooper on what he wants to see his team do differently tonight:
There’s always going to be adjustments. There are a few things that we saw that maybe we can take advantage of. We did have a couple of power plays in there. I think it was our third one that had look after look but just didn’t score.
It was [the first penalty] and the five [minute power play] that — give Toronto credit — they did a heck of a job on. I think we let them off the hook a little bit. We’ll be ready for them tonight.
Cooper on how Andrei Vasilevskiy will respond tonight:
He finds a way to get himself dialled in during these situations — not that he doesn’t in other scenarios. Give him 60 minutes of a game and put a few by him, he’s a pretty proud guy.
When he’s [focused] — which he has been [in the past] in these scenarios — he’s pretty tough to beat.
Cooper on the high number of penalties in Game 1:
There’s mega ebbs and flows. I just think there was a little heightened awareness for this series just because the way our last game against each other went. It was probably justified. The score got out of hand a little bit, so tempers started to flare, and things like that happen.
I looked back at the penalties. The guys took penalties. Maybe you could argue one [was] dicey, but even when we went down 5-on-3, at the time, I was kind of bitching about it. I then looked at it again, and I was like, “You know what? It was dumb on our part.”
I think the refs called what was supposed to be called. Both teams were a little bit careless in their game.
Cooper on his team’s physical game tonight:
The physical aspect of our game is part of our plan. In the past couple of years, that’s been a big staple of ours — the way we break teams down. We wanted to be more physical in the game. We just weren’t, for whatever reason.
That’s part of the grind. You never know how long the game is going to go, whether it’s going to be 60, 70, or 80 [minutes long]. You may not see results in the first period or second period, but you might see it in the third. If you’re not doing it at all, it becomes an easy night.
We let them off the hook. It was an easy night for them.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#56 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #91 John Tavares – #15 Alex Kerfoot
#88 William Nylander – #64 David Kampf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#25 Ondrej Kase – #11 Colin Blackwell – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#44 Morgan Rielly – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#8 Jake Muzzin – #78 T.J. Brodie
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren
Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#50 Erik Källgren
Healthy Scratches: Justin Holl, Jason Spezza, Nick Abruzzese
Suspended: Kyle Clifford (one game)
Injured: Rasmus Sandin, Petr Mrazek
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
#18 Ondrej Palat – #91 Steven Stamkos – #86 Nikita Kucherov
#38 Bradon Hagel – #21 Brayden Point – #71 Anthony Cirelli
#17 Alex Killorn – #79 Ross Colton – #20 Nick Paul
#14 Patrick Maroon – #41 Pierre-Edouard Bellmare – #10 Corey Perry
#77 Victor Hedman – #44 Jan Rutta
#27 Ryan McDonagh – #81 Erik Cernak
#98 Mikhail Sergachev – #52 Cal Foote
Starter: #88 Andrei Vasilevskiy
#1 Brian Elliot
Healthy Scratches: Riley Nash, Zach Bogosian