In their first game back from their Western Canadian road trip, the Toronto Maple Leafs were treated to an old fashion beatdown from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If there was a game the Toronto Maple Leafs should burn from the video archives, Monday’s 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning would be at the top of the list.
From start to finish the Leafs never looked like they were in the game as the Lightning used suffocating attack offensively and gave Toronto no space to work with.
While Tampa Bay was the better team they also knew Toronto would be in tough since they had just returned from a road trip where they spent most of the week in another time zone. Even though the Leafs wouldn’t acknowledge it, you could tell they were fatigued.
"“We caught a tired team,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper after the game. “They just came off the West Coast and they’ve got to play another game at home in a different time zone, and you’ve got to take advantage of that.”"
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Is it frustrating to see the Leafs get pushed around by the top team in the league? Of course. Auston Matthews told reporters that this was a “measuring stick game” for the team and they didn’t come ready to play.
There has been a lot of talk about how Toronto isn’t on Tampa’s level and the gap between the two clubs but it is easy to point it out after a blowout loss.
Considering how Toronto outplayed Tampa earlier this season, the Lightning needed to come out swinging. What should be on the Leafs’ minds is the final game against the powerhouse of the NHL on Apr. 4.
Hopefully, by that point, the Leafs will be healthier since they were without Jake Gardiner, Travis Dermott and Kasperi Kapanen in this one. Those three players can certainly make a difference over their replacements especially with Martin Marincin and Igor Ozhiganov struggling on the blue line.
What’s important to remember here is that both teams are more concerned about the playoffs because at the end of the day, playing well in the regular season only means something if it translates to postseason success.
That doesn’t mean both teams should want the regular season to end, instead, they should be looking to solidify their game. The Leafs should be thinking about their lines in order so that when Round 1 of the playoffs begins the players should know what to expect.
Hopefully, like they’ve done at countless points this season, the Leafs take something from this game but don’t let it get to them considering how their season has gone. Right now, Tampa is feeling good about themselves and deserve to but Toronto needs to find a way to start feeling good about their game.