The Toronto Maple Leafs will have to make some adjustments to their line-up following an ill-disciplined 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Giving up seven power play opportunities to the reigning champions was never going to be a pathway to success for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While it is easy to dwell on the penalty kill and the way it thrived in Game 1; it was pretty clear that at some point the Tampa power-play would be able to take advantage of their chances.
Unfortunately, it came in Game 2, with three extra-man chances converted by the Lightning; two on penalties to Wayne Simmonds.
Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Change Things Up?
Herein lies the line-up decision that the Toronto Maple Leafs must make. Do they sit one of their more intimidating and physical players because he made some questionable decisions? You might imagine that Corey Perry and Pat Maroon take extra liberties without the fear of Wayne Simmonds pounding them, after all.
Or do you trust in your team to show the necessary fightback against Perry and Maroon especially, regardless of whether Simmonds is in the line-up or not? Right now, the smart decision for the Leafs is to find a way to spend the maximum amount of time at 5-on-5. After all, they’ve only allowed 2 goals thus far this series at even-strength.
Also note though, of course, that in two games there have been a shorthanded goal in both Game 1 and Game 2 by the Toronto Maple Leafs; the odd man-advantage for Tampa is going to happen and can still be a rallying point.
Either way, the smart thinking might be to sit both Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford. After all, the likes of Ilya Lyubushkin and Mark Giordano among others are not going to let the team be pushed around too much.
Doing so would give the fourth line a different look especially if you’re bringing Jason Spezza back into the fold. Suddenly, it’s a reasonable offensive threat that can possibly mismatch against a bit more of a ‘goon’ line for Tampa.
It’s a tough decision to make, especially as the Lightning may indeed take liberties without Clifford or Simmonds to answer to. Perhaps though, it’s a necessary one.
Perhaps by sitting both, Tampa do respond with elevated physicality and end up leading themselves endlessly to the penalty box. The Toronto Maple Leafs certainly are dangerous on the powerplay and should not be underestimated if they’re given the chances.
It’s definitely a likelihood that Jason Spezza might see his first playoff action in Game 3; the only question that needs answering is who sits. We shall find out soon enough.