Someplace alongside the best way, the Toronto Maple Leafs forgot who they have been and what introduced them right here. What made them so harmful. So profitable.
This isn’t a heavy workforce. And it isn’t too bodily. Probably the most intimidating side of Toronto’s roster is his ability and velocity, in addition to Auston Matthews’ uncanny capturing capacity.
And but, the Leafs went from enhancing their expertise within the common season to attempting to construct energy towards the Tampa Bay Lightning within the playoffs. And if it continues, it may very properly value them the primary spherical sequence, which is fortunately 1-1.
We are saying fortunate as a result of the Leafs gave the Lightning 5 powerplay alternatives in Recreation 1, together with a foolish five-minute boarding recreation that obtained Kyle Clifford suspended and but managed to stroll away with the win by the rating 5-0. Two days later, with Clifford watching from the press field, the Leafs took seven small penalties in Recreation 2. However this time, the Lightning made them pay for it by scoring three powerplay targets in a 5-3 win.
“That is playoff hockey,” Lightning head coach John Cooper stated. “And the blokes are going to step up and assist their workforce. The groups need to win. They battle laborious. They simply need to be good about it.”
Translation: The Leafs want to start out considering extra with their heads than their fists.
And it begins with their head coach.
The final time I checked, Mike Babcock was not behind the Toronto bench. So it isn’t clear why Sheldon Keefe beat Jason Spezza twice this 12 months with 12 targets and 25 factors to Clifford and Wayne Simmonds who collectively have had extra fights (8) than targets (6), particularly when neither of them doesn’t play. how Toronto desires to play or performed the final three seasons.
The Leafs do not want a fourth line full of enforcers. They do not need guys to tug Morgan Reilly into his first and second profession fights or take silly penalties towards one of many league’s greatest energy gamers. They need gamers who’re good sufficient to show the opposite cheek and rating a purpose or two as an alternative.
Merely put, they should get again to taking part in with their identification. And this persona is extra like Mitch Marner than Colton Orr.
Sure, the playoffs are a time when bodily energy builds up and gamers do issues that are not usually a part of their recreation, like blocking a shot or throwing a shot. So it was an indication of development to see Rilly reply the decision and bloody Ian Rutta in a battle in Recreation 1, and in addition see Matthews take the physique quite than the puck in Ryan McDonagh’s forecheck, which straight led to Michael Bunting’s purpose in Recreation 2.
Normally this reply makes Leafs followers completely happy. Regardless of all the trimmings of an enormous metropolis, it is nonetheless a working-class hockey city that prides itself on answering the decision. Whether or not it is Tiger Williams, Wendel Clarke, or Ty Domi, the Leafs have historically performed with what former basic supervisor Brian Burke referred to as “the correct stage of pugnacity, testosterone, brutality and militancy.”
However this isn’t the workforce that Kyle Dubas constructed. If something, it is extra of a Tampa Bay mannequin than a Toronto one.
The Lightning, which was second solely to Nashville, Ottawa and Boston in physique checks within the common season, leads the playoffs with 47 hits per recreation. The Leafs, ranked twenty fourth within the league throughout the common season, lowered their common of 21 hits per recreation to 36.
This isn’t a name again. This can be a boxer who wobbles wildly when he is higher at slipping, spinning and utilizing his legs. It was Nazem Kadri who was disqualified and as soon as once more value the Leafs all the sequence.
“It is a robust recreation, however a recreation between whistles,” Braden Level stated. “I believed that tonight we may end the checks and play PE, however we’ll go down that line a bit. We all know how harmful this workforce is on the ability play, so it is essential to remain out of the penalty space.”
There’s a line between taking part in laborious and taking part in with no again. And to this point, the Leafs are doing greater than the latter, whereas taking part in into the palms of the Lightning.
Tampa Bay does not need to study from Toronto. Relatively, just like the Bruins, the Lightning need to take the Leafs out of their consolation zone and make life uncomfortable. They need Matthews to consistently look over his shoulder, in order that Marner retains his head on a hinge. They usually need the Toronto gamers to consistently head in direction of the penalty space in order that the massive recreation in most of Tampa Bay can work.
“Good playoff line. You may’t cross it,” stated Corey Perry, fourth-line Lightning pest. “However you might be on the market and you are attempting to earn each piece of ice. I believe we did an awesome job, fought laborious and moved ahead with out going too far.”
In different phrases, the Leafs do not want Matthews’ throwing punches. They actually do not want Simmonds to take two pointless penalties in Recreation 2 – one for roughness, the opposite for cross-checking, which led to a pair of powerplay targets for Tampa Bay when he averages simply 5 minutes on the ice. .
The perfect workforce wins. Extra importantly, that is what essentially the most disciplined do.