Leafs 4 v. Lightning 2: Opposite Day
The Leafs have strung together a 3 game win streak (beats our prevous best on the season by two!) and will head into Sunrise, Florida with a full head of steam. Paul Maurice, on the other hand, probably has a head full of steam that is ready to shoot out of his ears. Once again the Leafs were an enigma to their fans, their coach, and thankfully, to the Lightning.
In a game that could only be described as reminiscent of the childhood game Opposite Day. You remember the game. You nonchalantly walked up to a girl (that you secretly liked) and told her that you thought she was smart/pretty. Right when she was feeling good about herself you would yell 'Opposite Day!' before running back towards your buddies laughing. The reminds me of how much fun I had last Saturday night. However, instead of getting yelled at by a teacher the Leafs picked up a 4-2 win.
5 Things that made Maurice roll his eyes on the bench as the cameras were on him
- Despite ostensibly being 'tougher' to play against (and in fairness, the Leafs have shown that they possess that ability) Bitter Leaf has noted how often the opposite is in fact true. Last night was no different as the Leafs looked shell shocked to be playing a game in Florida instead of golfing. The Lightning were unlucky to leave the first period tied. Thankfully, I am not a Lightning fan.
- The Leafs defenceman handled all of the scoring. Yes, teams that succeed usually receive some offensive output from their defence but after Ian White notched the game winner on the PP (that is #3) the Leafs had let their defence score 7 of the last 10 goals. I would rather have 3 lines scoring than depend on our defence but then again have won our last 3 games so maybe it's the beginning of a rearguard-led offensive system.
- The Lightning's penalty kill has been terrible this season while the Leafs entered the game with the fourth best powerplay on the road. As soon as a reported mentioned this stat Paul Maurice thanked him for ruining his powerplay. He really should have been blaming Bryan McCabe who was atrocious. The powerplay looked lost on a four minute powerplay at the beginning of the game and if White had not scored they would have cost the Leafs the game.
- The impact players for the Leafs last night were some of the usual suspects but what was weird (based on everyone's hate) was seeing some of the...umm...less appreciated Leafs contributing to the win. Hal Gill scored the game tying goal and was again a rock on the PK (and just as fast), Jeff O'Neill picked up two assists and got into numerous good positions, and Nik Antropov played 8 strong shifts on the reunited top line with Ponikarovsky and Sundin while picking up an assist and almost setting up a couple of other goals. What do they have in common? I have been a supporter of all three (Nik is clearly the hardest to defend) and they have done well to make me look like I know more than just some homer. My suggestion to Bryan McCabe: get into my good books and pick up that karmic boost. A cash donation will work wonders.
- The Leafs played like crap for 40 minutes and then stole the game in the third. This is clearly the inspiration for the post's title since dominate for 40 minutes and have the game stolen has been much more common this season. In fact, this was just the 2nd time in 39 games that the Leafs have won after entering the third period behind.
All in all, if the Leafs keep playing sinfully boring games and winning then I will get on board with this new strategy. However, I am guessing that Maurice would like to see the team that was on the ice in the third more than the one that started the game. And can Alex Steen please start scoring. Most fans only look at stats and do not notice your hard work on the cycle and your increased physical presence. They want goals and I want them to shut up.
Maple Leaf Goals
Tomas 'Wesley' Kaberle continues to show that if any defenceman should be on the wing it's him. Alex Steen set up this goal with a nice move to the inside past the Lightning defenceman (Sarich?) but he was unable to get a shot off. O'Neill picked up the puck and curled towards the boards and held the puck until he saw Snipes open on the far side. Jeff slid a perfect pass to him on right side and Tomas' shot hit both of Denis' pads before sliding in. That was the 300th point of his career which almost matches the total he is on pace for after this outburst.
Another lucky bounce. A good Leafs forecheck caused the Lightning to make a bad pass up the left boards. Gill kept the puck in and fired a shot on net (note to defencemen: low and hard is better than high and wide) which was deflected by a defender and slid into the net.
The powerplay finally connects! Ian White scoops up a loose puck and fires home the winner. Stajan had tried to hit him sneaking down from the point but it was knocked away and eventually found its way to his stick.
Antropov makes nice deflection of White's pass to Sundin who hit a streaking Ponikarovsky who slid the puck into the empty net as he was falling.
But when it mattered most, when the score was tied in the third, Leafs defenseman Ian White found the back of the net during a power play, and Toronto skated off with a 4-2 victory.
Carter Gaddis, The Tampa Tribune, writing something that Leafs are used to reading about the other team. Feels good.
I thought it was an exceptionally good call.
Paul Maurice, Head Coach, describing his thoughts on Tampa's disallowed goal. He is probably the funniest coach in hockey. Aside from Jacques Martin that is. Of course, we are laughing with Paul.