Going into the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to set the tone early.
They did not waste any time doing so in game one. The first period of game one was one of the best periods the Toronto Maple Leafs played all year.
Fans and reporters can say whatever they want about the hit by Kyle Clifford. Yes, that hit earned him a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct, but it set the tone. Toronto will not be a team that the Lightning can push around.
What happened after that hit was even more impressive. Toronto’s penalty killers were able to kill off that five-minute penalty. They were lights out and gave Tampa’s power play fits all night. Tampa finished the night 0/5 on the power play and gave up a short-handed goal to David Kampf.
Toronto never allowed Tampa to gain any momentum throughout the game. The Toronto Maple Leafs played a good cycle game, blocked shots, clogged up passing lanes, and backchecked effectively. As a whole, the team played a great defensive game.
Toronto Maple Leafs Kept Their Foot on the Gas
The Leafs played a very tight-checking game and picked their spots offensively. Toronto was able to score five goals against Andrei Vasilevskiy while also limiting the Lightning to 24 shots. Tampa had a few good chances, but Jack Campbell was dialed in and stopped everything.
Once the Lightning realized they were going to lose game one, they decided to fight everyone. However, Toronto stood its ground and fought back. The game ended with a total of 113 penalty minutes handed out. Most of those came from the line brawl in the third period.
It is safe to say that the intensity level will be high for game two Wednesday night. The Toronto Maple Leafs should expect more pushback from the Lightning. So long as Toronto can play the same tight-checking and lane blocking style as in game one, they will be fine.
The Maple Leafs have all the momentum right now, and they can not afford to let Tampa take any of it away. No matter how physical the game becomes, all that matters is winning. Toronto’s two biggest stars came to play in game one and will be looking for more in game two.
Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner each had three points in game one. They took a lot of heat after losing in the first round last year for not producing. They are on a mission to prove that they can produce when it matters. Hopefully, they can help Toronto take a 2-0 series lead Wednesday night.
Game one was evidence that Toronto came to play. The fans in the building were electric, and the player fed off of it. Toronto needs to continue feeding off of it and win game two. It is important to make home-ice matter. If the Toronto Maple Leafs win game two, I do not see them losing this series.