The Toronto Maple Leafs (39-26-15) lost 4-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning (40-30-10) on Thursday night and the elusive “x” continues to evade Toronto.
Thoughts and Observations
could have locked up a playoff spot on Thursday night. Instead they’re searching for answers after losing 4-1 to the injury ravaged Tampa Bay Lightning. Prior to puck drop this seemed like a game tailor-made for the Leafs.Tyler Johnson
was out, the Leafs were motivated given they needed a win to clinch a playoff berth, they were at home; it just seemed like a great combination favouring the Leafs. Yeah, about that… To be frank, it was anything but that. Yes, the Leafs had their moments on Thursday, but, overall, the Lightning dominated this contest.
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What I found bizarre about this Leafs’ performance, aside from the fact that they looked nothing like what we’ve seen over the past few weeks, was how easily the Lightning were controlling the neutral zone. The Washington Capitals did the same on Tuesday night, but I thought we could just chalk that up to the Leafs playing the second game of a back-to-back set and being tired. But this performance against Tampa was perplexing and the Lightning simply looked hungry for a win, while the Leafs looked uptight and nervous.
If Toronto can take anything from this game, it’s a blueprint of how teams will likely defendAuston Matthews
in the postseason, pending they make it. That blueprint consists of physical play, physical play and more physical play. On Thursday we sawJake Dotchin
hit Matthews with a knee-on-knee hit, which was bs, and then we saw Brayden Coburn drive him into the net. It’s not just the big hits, though, the Lightning were chippy with Matthews and made sure he knew somebody was on him. I’d imagine Matthews will see a lot of this if the Leafs make the postseason.
Give the Lightning’s key players credit. They had a major impact on this game and the quartet ofVictor Hedman
had their way with the Leafs all night. In case you missed, Kucherov had a highlight reel goal, too.
Stat of the Night
The last time the Maple Leafs lost back-to-back games was six weeks ago when they lost on the road to the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 15th and at home to the Ottawa Senators on February 18th. The Leafs have been red hot recently, but losing two games in a row has been a rarity this season and the team has only lost back-to-back games (in regulation) five times this year.
The Maple Leafs will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre and once again try to clinch a playoff berth. According to MoneyPuck.com, who is a must-follow on Twitter if you’re into playoff projections and odds, Toronto has a 91.5 percent chance of making the playoffs.
However, Thursday’s loss did impact where the Leafs will likely finish. Instead of finishing second or third in the Atlantic Division, the Leafs will now more than likely finish in the second Wild Card spot and play the Washington Capitals in round one.
Of course, the Leafs need to get into the postseason first. The situation remains the same for the Leafs on Saturday — win and you’re in. Just a hunch, but something tells me we’re going to see an extra motivated Phil Kessel this weekend.
What did you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below