Toronto Maple Leafs: Kyle Clifford Swung The Game’s Momentum
A lot can be said for the boarding penalty that Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kyle Clifford received for his hit on Tampa’s Ross Colton.
You might argue it wasn’t worthy of a game misconduct or even a five-minute penalty, however the officials made their decision at the time and that was that.
Of course, the game misconduct likely means he’ll be missing at the very least Game 2; though rest assured Jason Spezza will be raring to step in. It may seem like an odd thing to say given that he gifted the Tampa Bay Lightning five minutes on the powerplay and over 50 minutes playing against 11 forwards, but Clifford played his part in the victory.
He may have literally been on the ice for less than a minute in Game One, but he firmly swung the momentum. Firstly, Kyle Clifford landing the first big, nasty hit highlighted that the Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t about to be bullied or pushed around.
Secondly, if it isn’t for the Leafs having to survive a 5-minute penalty kill, the fans don’t necessarily create such an emphatic atmosphere in the building.
Sheldon Keefe labelled the fans in Scotibank Arena as the first star in his books and it was clear on the broadcast that they really got behind the team. The energy that this would’ve given the players shouldn’t be overlooked. All because the penalty kill was forced to survive that five minutes.
Equally, the successful penalty kill no doubt gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a huge amount of confidence in their ability to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Preventing the likes of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman from scoring even on a man-advantage would’ve gone a long way to building the team’s defensive confidence.
It’s seems odd to say it, but simply put without the slightly bone-headed decision by Clifford to lay a late hit along the boards, the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t necessarily have the fans involved or have the level of confidence that penalty kill gave them.