2016-17 Season Breakdown: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Did the Lightning kill the Leafs’ post-season hopes?
View From the Other Bench:
Katya Knappe, managing editor of Pension Plan Puppets, weighs in:
“When two tribes go to war, it helps if they aren't wearing nearly the same shirt. It also helps if they aren't helmed by two men who loved each other like only teammates on a winner can do. But Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan aren't their teams. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner versus Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov is where it's at now.
“There is no love there.
“The Leafs played the Lightning four times last season, and split the games two and two. The goals were 12 for the Leafs and 13 for the Lightning. At the end of the year, the Leafs had poached Brian Boyle from the Lightning, and Kucherov was carrying the team without Stamkos.
“And they scared us to death. If anyone was going to keep the Leafs out of the playoffs it was the Bolts. The Islanders didn't have it. The Bolts damn near did, hobbling on one leg and claiming through gritted teeth they were fine, totally fine.
“Lucky for the Leafs, they weren't fine.
“The start of the contest with our blue and white siblings began with a learning experience. The Bolts came to Toronto, and found Frederik Andersen nearing the end of his horrible October. They tuned up the Leafs, while playing some very horrible hockey, I might add, for a score of 7-3.
“The next match near the end of December, was a Toronto special, they got a lead, they lost the lead, they ended up in OT and Nazem Kadri got the win.
“The third game, in March, was during Andersen's super hot streak. The Bolts played well, peppered him with shots, and he just stared all that down, got a shutout while meanwhile, uh, to put this nicely, the Leafs got a chance to see why Peter Budaj was working out so well as the backup. Leafs took that game 5-0, with Andrei Vasilevskiy the guilty party on four of them.
“The fourth game, the most meaningful, was one of those learning experience things again for the young Leafs. They needed the win. One more win, and they were in. The next game was the Penguins. They needed to beat the Bolts, who were still there, like something from some damn zombie movie, refusing to give up, still chasing.
“They lost. The Leafs lost bad. The final score in Vasy's revenge was 4-1, and the Leafs needed to beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions to make the playoffs.
“So thanks for all the lessons, Tampa Bay, in determination, in never giving up, in playing all out like you're the hottest team in the league even if you're mostly the Crunch that night.
“We won't forget.”
Did the Leafs help or hurt the Lightning this season?
Tampa Bay’s games against the Leafs were critical, all four of them. We split the series, winning two and losing two, but every game was an important benchmark. Not only that, but Tampa won that fourth game at just the right/wrong time to prolong Tampa’s hopes and make it certain that the Leafs would face Ovechkin in the first round of playoffs.
The games against Toronto came at such evenly spaced intervals that they were like a snapshot of the season as a whole. The first game against Toronto happened when everyone’s hopes for the year were still high, before Stamkos’s injury, when the team was blowing out competition easily. It was the kind of game where Stamkos earned four points (2G/2A) and Andrei Sustr topped that off getting two assists. It was the game responsible for this gif:
Stamkos and Kucherov react to the kiss cam
Then the season went to hell. In the second game, the Syracuse Crunch were not skillful enough to master the Toronto Marlies’ goalie, Anton Bibeau.
The third game was a huge blow to Lightning fan’s hopes at the very moment we thought the team was finally getting its s*** together.
But by the fourth game, people like Jake Dotchin, Michael Bournival, and Brayden Point saw their way onto the scoresheet, and Bolts stole a victory from a young and hopeful team who choked under the pressure of needing to clinch 3rd in Atlantic.
The steadily improving Leafs will continue to be Tampa Bay’s yardstick in the coming seasons, and with a tougher Atlantic division, making the playoffs will not come as easily as it did during Ben Bishop’s record-setting years. Okay.
October 25, 2016 -- Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Toronto Maple Leafs 3
Preview by @GeoFitz4 -- Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs preview: Stamkos finally comes home!
“While this won’t be Steven Stamkos’ first appearance in Air Canada Centre since signing an eight year extension with the Lightning, it will be his first in a Lightning jersey. On the other side of the match is fellow first-overall pick and sensational center Auston Matthews. One is 26 years old and a veteran playing in his 575th NHL game with 315 career goals. The other is 18 years old playing in his 6th NHL game, and already has 5 goals. Both are incredible talents, and it will be intriguing to watch them go head to head.”
Remember this? This was like a metaphor for the whole season.
Recap by @ David Baldwin -- Offense shines, Bishop loses teeth in 7-3 win over Maple Leafs
There was a scary moment at 13:22 of the period when Bishop took a heavy shot from Peter Holland off the mask. The on-ice officials immediately whistled the play dead and medical staff attended to Bishop. A close look on the television screens showed Bishop without his top front teeth, perhaps from the impact of the shot against his mask. The Lightning goaltender remained in the game, though.
December 29, 2016 -- Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 3, OT
Preview by @iActium -- Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: The new kids are in town
"If you didn’t get a chance to catch the Lightning defeat the Montreal Canadiens last night, then I pity you. You missed an intense game. Not to steal any thunder (hehe) from our recap guys, I’ll be brief. The Lightning allowed the first goal for the 23rd time this season. 23 times out of 36 games. That’s 63% of the time the Lightning give up the first goal. This must stop."
Recap by @Achariya -- Tampa Bay Lightning earn a point vs. Toronto and stay healthy
"Last night’s game was an emotional high. My question going into the game was, would the Bolts be able to get their energy harnessed enough for a battle for the third playoff spot? When we learned that Toronto Marlie call-up Antoine Bibeau would get his second-ever NHL start, I felt hope. Depleted and exhausted, perhaps the Bolts could win against a new goalie. They did not, but they did manage to earn a point on the second night of a back-to-back, and nobody else got hurt. Maybe. Hopefully."
March 16, 2017 -- Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 0
Preview by @iActium -- Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: The board is set
“Words cannot properly describe the play of this team of late. The defense has resembled a form of actual competency while the offense has continued to click at a solid rate, but the most joyful thing to come of these past eight games has been the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy has gone 5-1-0 with a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 1.50 and a Save Percentage (SV%) of 0.954 in his last six starts, and this is just phenomenal from our Russian netminder.”
News by Saima — Brian Boyle receives a standing ovation in his return to Tampa
Recap by Clark Brooks -- Bolts blown out by Leafs
“Well the thing that was missing was the defending. That was what we weren’t doing. Actually we were fine in the game. It was just the little ten by ten area in front of our net was the only area on the ice we didn’t play. Clearly that’s the most important part. That’s what’s unfortunate. We’ve been so good defending of late, hence why we’ve had success. We didn’t tonight. It’s too bad because it looks bad on Vasilevskiy, but there’s not much he can do when you’ve got guys just tapping them in and winning battles against us there. What can you do? Missed opportunity for us, but we’re going to wake up tomorrow with the same amount of points we’re out of a playoff spot as we started today so just got to turn the page and move on. That’s it.” — Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
April 6, 2017 -- Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 1
Preview by @Bethelhub -- Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs Preview: Staring down elimination
“The Bolts lost Stamkos and Callahan for the season and Brian Boyle Valtteri Filppula, Nikita Nesterov and Ben Bishop permanently to trades. That is an incredible core of players not playing late in the season for a potential playoff push for the Bolts. The fact that Tampa Bay in the end was able to make it interesting is incredible in itself.
“In the words of Geo, ‘Win in regulation and we still have a shot. Win in overtime and we still have a shot, but it's tiny and we have to hope the tiebreakers go our way as well as Toronto losing out. Win in shootout or lose, and we’re done.’”
Recap by Arvind of Pension Plan Puppets — Game Recap: Lightning 4 - Leafs 1
"Unfortunately, this loss means the Leafs will almost certainly be in the second wild card spot if they do make the postseason, which means a 4 or 5 game drubbing at the hands of Ovi and the Caps. Which, to be sure, is probably more enjoyable than a loss to the Bruins or Sens. But the latter two are definitely more winnable series’. The Caps are a juggernaut, and short of Andersen going 2010 Halak on them, we have a minimal chance of winning."
Goals: Stamkos (2), Namestnikov (1), Kucherov (2), Hedman (1), Killorn (1), Drouin (1), Boyle (1), Palat (1), Point (2), Bournival (1)
Assists: Stamkos (2), Namestnikov (1), Kucherov (4), Stralman (1), Point (1), Sustr (4) [!!!], Coburn (1), Johnson (1), Drouin (1), Hedman (3), Dotchin (1), Palat (2)
October 25: Bishop, .930 SV%, even without teeth
December 29: Vasilevskiy, .914 SV%
March 16: Vasilevskiy, .730 SV% (oof)
April 6: Vasilevskiy, .963 SV%