Game Four Preview and Game Day Thread: Maple Leafs at Lightning
Tie it up or face a steep uphill battle.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning: Game 4 (Toronto leads 2-1)
Time: 7:30 P.M.
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUNX, TBS, CBC, TVAS, SNE, SNO, SNP
Opponent's Site: Pension Plan Puppets
DraftKings Line: Lightning +1.5 O/U 6.5
The Lightning did a lot of very good things in Game Three, they just didn't get the outcome they were looking for as the Maple Leafs scored late in the third period to tie things up and then late in the first overtime to win it. For the rest of the night, it was pretty much all Lightning.
For the first game of the series, they forced Ilya Samsonov to be the best player on the ice and, to his credit, he responded by posting a 1.23 GSAx, the first time all series he's posted a positive number in that category. While he had a lot of stellar stops amongst his 39 saves, the biggest one was on Nikita Kucherov in overtime:
That's how close the Lightning were to taking the series lead.
Throughout the night Tampa Bay launched 91 shot attempts in the general direction of Samsonov with 39 of them finding the net. Toronto had to block 26 of those shots and watch as another 26 went wide of the net. That's a lot of action in the Maple Leafs zone.
After the game, everyone was on the same page. It was a good game, especially compared to their performance in Game Two. The process was where they needed it to be, unfortunately the outcome wasn't what they desired. More importantly they realized that just because they played well in Game Three, it doesn't mean it will automatically carry over into Game Four.
"We can't hang our hat on that. We have to go out and execute and do the same thing next game." That's how Victor Hedman put in during his off-day Zoom call reporters on Sunday.
Especially in the second period, the Lightning had the Maple Leafs at sixes and sevens when it came to their breakouts. Not only was the forecheck strong, the Bolts were dominating the middle of the ice and Toronto could barely cross over the center line with possession. When you're facing a team with the offensive skill of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, it's always best to make them stay as far away from your net as possible.
It's been a battle of adjustments so far in this series. The Leafs responded to the Lightning's netfront dominance in Game One by playing stronger in front of their net. In Game Three it was the Lightning neutralizing the Leafs speed through the neutral zone. Now, we'll see if Toronto has an answer for the Lightning forecheck.
As well as the Lightning played, they still had some small holes in their game. For one thing, they went 0-for-3 on the power play and generated just three high-danger chances with the extra skater. After going 4-for-8 in the first game for the series, they are now 0-for-6 over the last two. If they can find their scoring touch on the power play that will help them down the stretch.
There has been some chatter about Andrei Vasilevskiy's play over the first three games in the series. Here's the thing, there was a lot of the same talk after the first three games of the series last year. After three games last season Vasy was 1-2, with an .890 SV%, and a -.41 GSAx. This year he is 1-2, with an .853 SV% and -3.08 GSAx.
Here's the thing, and Coach Cooper alluded to it in his Zoom conference on Sunday. Vasilevskiy gets better as the series continues. Over the final four games of last year's series he went 3-1, with a .904 SV% and, -0.01 GSAX. Again, not stellar numbers but an improvement on the beginning of the series. Expect him to be much, much better over the remainder of this series.
The winner of the game tonight should have the momentum heading back to Toronto. Game Four is always a pivotal game in a series, especially when the first two are split. It will either be all tied up or Toronto will have the stranglehold, 3-1 lead. Should be a fun night at the arena.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Ross Colton - Nick Paul - Tanner Jeannot
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Nick Perbix
Mikhail Sergachev - Darren Raddysh
Ian Cole - Zach Bogosian
Toronto Maple Leafs Potential Lines
Calle Jarnkrok - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Alex Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander
Matthew Knies - Ryan O'Reilly - Noel Accairi
Zach Ashton-Reese - David Kampf - Sam Lafferty
TJ Brodie - Jake McCabe
Morgan Reilly - Luke Schenn
Mark Giordano - Justin Holl