Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: The new kids are in town
The task now is to carry the momentum forward.
Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (18-15-3): GAME 37
Time: 7:30pm EST
Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa
Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, SUN, SDO
Opponents SB Nation Site: Pension Plan Puppets
Previous Game Musings:
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.
Defensive mistakes and an Andrei Vasilevskiy mis-play put the Lightning down 3-1 after 2 periods. Vladislav Namestnikov was drilled into the boards by Shea Weber who inexplicably wasn’t called for boarding.
The Bolts finally came to life on goals from Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat to tie it. Tyler Johnson sealed the win in overtime further cementing his reputation as a “clutch” player. This game was an emotional roller coaster! I had a friend over watching the game with me (doesn’t know a thing about hockey) and he was in tears from laughter at the emotional swings this game gave me. I literally leaped off my couch screaming “TYLER JOHNSON!!” when #9 sealed the win. Moving on though…
Tyler Johnson OT winner pic.twitter.com/3AIkI2lOZU— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 29, 2016
The Toronto Maple Leafs or “new kids on the block” are in town today for a back-to-back series with Florida teams. I’m unsure how rare it is for both teams to play back-to-backs, but I surmise it’s not a common occurrence. The Leafs defeated the Florida Panthers last night 3-2 in a shootout after blowing a two-goal lead in the 3rd period. Auston Matthews and William Nylander were the goal scorers in regulation with Mitch Marner scoring the shootout winner for the Leafs.
Interesting little stat from that game: the Panthers and Leafs combined for 87 shots on goal. That’s just the shots that were counted, I didn’t even bother looking for attempted shots. Florida put 47 on net while Toronto put 40 down range. This is a Leafs team that loves to shoot the puck. The Leafs are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games and have won 3 straight while potting 26 goals and allowing 20.
The Lightning are coming off a brilliant comeback against the Canadiens, fending off defensive gaffes and spotty play to defeat Montreal 4-3 in overtime. The healthy returns of Kucherov, Palat, Hedman, Coburn, and Drouin were noticeable throughout the game. I stated in the last preview that we needed better goaltending, defensive stability, and better special teams to beat Montreal.
Well, all three of those factors were reasons why the Lightning allowed 3 goals last night. Goal 1: Vasy mis-play. Goal 2: Poor coverage on the PK, but Montreal did do a great job to set that goal up. Goal 3: Slater Koekkoek decided to slide for a poke check, leaving Point alone in front to cover two Habs players who scored an easy goal. Outside of those gaffes and some really weird bounces that made Vasilevskiy make some interesting saves, the Lightning came back because they started to carry the play at even strength better than Montreal did.
The team outshot Montreal 30-22 throughout the game, only being outshot in the 1st period by 8-7; and they had a few dangerous chances that they couldn’t convert on. Ondrej Palat was denied by Carey Price on one hell of a paddle save that could possibly be a Save Of the Year candidate. Montreal had their surges, but Tampa did a very good job at limiting chances once the game settled after the Habs went up 3-1. Once the midway point of the 2nd passed, the Lightning maintained pressure on the Canadiens until the game ended.
The pressure the Bolts put on Montreal has to be the same against Toronto, a team that isn’t as defensively sound and prone to breakdowns in their own zone.
Bad news out of last night’s game are the possible injuries to Vladislav Namestnikov and Brayden Point. Namestnikov took a brutal hit from Shea Weber that was inexplicably not penalized. Braydon Point took a slash from Alexander Radulov, and he looked a bit bothered during the play. He finished his shift, then left for the locker room. Both players did not finish the game. So expect more call-ups this morning Bolts fans.
Weber hit on Namestnikov cc @PiotrBee pic.twitter.com/IX7XSHgEFJ— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 29, 2016
With last night’s win, the Lightning gained some much-needed momentum. The task now is to carry that momentum forward against a Toronto team that is fast, skilled, and hungry. Cooper didn’t like how Vasilevskiy handled the last back-to-back, and is going to start him against Toronto to challenge him. Line combos will be jumbled again outside of the triplets (if Cooper wants Tampa to survive the Triplets re-emergence is the key), since Namestnikov and Point will more than likely both sit out. That means Filppula will be back in after his strange scratching last night, and a call-up, possibly Yanni Gourde, will suit up.
Game one of the five game home stand ended with a “W”, the Bolts have the confidence and the momentum to take the second game too.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin
Alex Killorn - Matthew Peca - Erik Condra
Michael Bournival - JT Brown- Nikita Nesterov
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn -Slater Koekkoek
Toronto Maple Leafs
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitchell Marner
Matt Martin - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov
Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak