The Toronto Maple Leafs (32-23-14) responded in a big way on Thursday night and made a statement by dismantling the Tampa Bay Lightning (34-27-9), 5-0.
Thoughts and Observations
One of the biggest differences between this game and the one against the Panthers on Tuesday was the speed the Leafs played at. Against Tampa, the Leafs looked faster through the neutral zone, forechecked harder, cycled the puck and even got traffic in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy. We hardly saw any of that against the Panthers.
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Not to discredit anything the Leafs did, but the Lightning look tired. This was Tampa’s third game in four nights and they were delayed returning home from Ottawa due to weather, while Toronto was only playing their second game in five nights. Again, this is not to discredit anything the Leafs did or make an excuse for the Lightning.
Stat of the Night
The Leafs have responded well after allowing six goals or more in a game and that trend continued against the Lightning. According to TSN Stats Centre, the Leafs are now 6-1-0 in games after they allow six or more goals. Whatever Babcock says following those bad games, it resonates with this team.
The Maple Leafs head home to host the Chicago Blackhawks (45-20-5) on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre and will be sporting their alternate green St. Pats uniforms in honour of St. Patrick’s Day.
If you thought the Lightning were red-hot, the Blackhawks are even hotter, winning 15 of their last 18 games. Considering the roster turnaround Chicago seems to endure after every season, this year might be their most impressive team yet. The Hawks have not only injected youth into their lineup, they’ve reinvented themselves on the fly and look poised to make another deep playoff run.
With the Leafs in year two of their rebuild, and the inevitable comparisons of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, I’m sure we’ll hear plenty of discussion about how the Leafs should try to model their future like the Blackhawks. Although I think every team is trying to mimic the Hawks’ success.
What did you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below