There’s plenty of bad blood between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning right now, so there’s no reason the parade to the penalty box won’t continue.
If this is the case, the Toronto Maple Leafs need to continue to absolutely bring it with their special teams’ performance.
They completely shut down a very strong powerplay, featuring the likes of Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos in Game One and will need more of the same.
There is every chance that this first round series is decided by the penalty kill and powerplay and this might play firmly into Toronto’s hands.
Toronto Maple Leafs Aren’t About to be Bullied
If Game One told us anything, it was that this Toronto Maple Leafs team isn’t going to shy away from the physicality of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the whole team is buying in on it too.
While nobody is going to expect the likes of Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner to drop the gloves, it doesn’t mean they’re going to let things slide. Heck, Morgan Rielly has zero reputation as a player that fights, but he certainly engaged, splitting Jan Rutta’s head open.
The league’s Department of Player Safety may have doled out its punishments too, with Kyle Clifford suspended for a game and Wayne Simmonds copping a fine but this won’t handcuff them either; they’ll continue to play physical.
Indeed, should the penalty box parade continue, it’s on the Leafs to make life as difficult as possible for Tampa. Continuing to press hard, fore-check high and intercept the passing lanes on the penalty kill will be fundamental to the team’s success.
With the likes of Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot, Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall all able to turn away with a burst of speed, we might not have seen the last shorthanded goal of this series.
Realistically, this is something that the Tampa Bay Lightning should have scouted – Sheldon Keefe has been calling it their ‘pressure kill’ for a while now after all. The Toronto Maple Leafs led the league in shorthanded goals this season and there’s no trickery to that; most develop in the same way.
Likewise, the power play had plenty of opportunity and although they only capitalised the one time, that was still once more than Tampa. It’s also fair to look at Jake Muzzin’s game opening goal and give the power play some credit as it came right off the back of it.
Again, the Maple Leafs had the league’s best powerplay this regular season, and while it’s not been in the strongest form in the lead-in, they still know how to get it done.
Tampa Bay will come into the next game with every intent to bounce back. Hopefully though, the Leafs can subdue them, force mistakes and cause them to lash out.
If those three things can happen, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have every chance to feast on a buffet of special team opportunities – never a bad thing!