Vladislav Namestnikov #90 of the Tampa Bay Lightning deflects the puck into the net of goalie Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Toronto Maple Leafs after battling against Jake Gardiner #51 during the third period.
Toronto - March 6, 2015 - On Thursday night the Leafs did the unthinkable, and lost a road game. And in case you were wondering, yes I have resorted to sarcasm in order to cope with just how poorly this season has gone. The Leafs fell 4-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in what was an exciting game, however it remained more of the same for the Leafs. The Leafs played a poor first period follow up by two solid periods where they out possessed their opponents and created quality chances. Despite their efforts though they simply could not keep up with the quality play of Tampa Bay, and were unable to dig themselves out the hole they found themselves in after the 1st period. This script is getting dull.
We got a chance to check on the progress of the Leafs power play 18 seconds into the game. Here’s the update, it’s still horrible and completely inept. Two minutes after the inept Leafs’ power play ended the Lightning broke the deadlock when Nikita Kucherov was left wide open by trade deadline addition Eric Brewer. 10 minutes later Ryan Callahan scored on a shot that this time went directly off of Eric Brewer, I’m sure Brewer enjoyed his first period as a Leaf. The Leafs were outshot 13-7 in the first and trailed 2-0 at intermission.
The second period saw the Leafs come out stronger and start to chip away at the Lightning. Nearly 7 minutes in, David Booth buried a one timer after Peter Holland made a great play to deliver the pass to Booth. Holland continues to show potential in bursts, it will be interesting to see how he finishes the season. He also fought Cedric Paquette in the 2nd period, showing a different side to his game. The shots after 2 periods was 23-14 for the Lightning.
The third period was highlighted by two more Lightning goals. The first from Namestnikov at 6:31, and Alex Killorn on a redirection at 15:14 on the powerplay. The Leafs did get one back at with two and half minutes to go, as Richard Panik redirected a Dion Phaneuf point shot. That is where the comeback stopped though. The Leafs were outshot 31-27, but out possessed Tampa Bay with 52% of the puck. When the Leafs play the brand of hockey that all winning teams play they simply aren’t good enough. Not that we would expect this post trade deadline roster to beat a cup contender.
As the season winds down, Leaf fans should focus not on the dull narratives surrounding Kessel and Dion. They’re getting boring, and as the season goes on, they’re proving to be less accurate (they all care about what’s happening and clearly neither lack leadership at this point). Instead we should shift our focus to the young roster players and the Marlie’s players who could we with the team next year. Potentially seeing Nylander - Kadri - Kessel(hopefully) on the ice together next year gets me excited. As does Morgan Rielly and long time absentee Stuart Percy. Fans should focus on the players who will be around next year, and hope that the last 47 years have resulted in the Leafs acquiring enough horseshoes to land Connor McDavid in the draft. Until then, enjoy many more games with lousy first periods and frustrated interviews.
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Rob was born in Toronto's East end and has been a Maple Leaf fan his entire life. He is currently a student at York University in Toronto and is studying writing. He has always loved the blues and sports of all kind. If you have any questions, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org