With the Toronto Maple Leafs holding a 2-1 series lead, the Tampa Bay Lightning have started to resort to mind games, suggesting they may be running scared.
While the 5-2 end result slightly flatters the Toronto Maple Leafs; they secured the win in Game 3 by and large on the back of Jack Campbell in net.
That didn’t stop Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper from coming out swinging after the game, pointing out Campbell’s less than ideal goals-against-average in this series.
The only issue with these mind games is that in the Tampa net, Andrei Vasilevskiy has worse numbers than Jack Campbell thus far in the series.
Toronto Maple Leafs Have Tampa Running Scared?
The sheer fact that Tampa chose to point out Jack Campbell’s failings suggest they are slightly more worried about losing this series than they want to let on.
By targeting one of the Toronto Maple Leafs players and trying to build frailties in his mind, they know exactly what they’re doing. They’re not about to do that if they’re confident of winning.
Of course, this is all part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs; mind games are nothing new. However, to be on the receiving end of them is a marked change for the Toronto Maple Leafs. This hasn’t typically happened as much in recent years.
Plenty should be made of Cooper’s comments though as they could be argued to be masking concerns over his own Vezina and Conn Smythe winning goaltender.
"“If we’re sitting here and having a three-and-a-half goals average for every two-game set, we’ll take that.” – Jon Cooper (Toronto Star)"
Jon Cooper specifically fails to mention that while Jack Campbell has indeed allowed 3.5 goals in the past two games, he also notched a shutout for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1.
At the same time David Kampf, of all people, has put two goals past Vasilevskiy, who himself has conceded 11 goals in 3 games.
Even comparing across the same two-game span, he’s still conceding an average of 3 goals in the past two games. It’s hardly that much better than Jack Campbell. And again, such is the way that Jon Cooper is measuring his statistics, he completely forgets Game 1 and the fact the Toronto Maple Leafs lit his goalie up for five goals.
Indeed, across the three games in the series so far, Jack Campbell is outplaying the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Campbell is rocking a 0.924% save percentage and 2.37 goals-against average across 3 games; Vasilevskiy by comparison has a save percentage of 0.890% and 3.72 goals-against-average (statistics from NHL Stats).
The Tampa Bay Lightning may not like to admit it and fact is, they never will admit it, but it’s clear that the Toronto Maple Leafs are living in their heads rent-free, at least to a small extent.
It’s vital that while the Toronto Maple Leafs definitely have a slight advantage right now, they need to tread carefully. There’s a reason Tampa’s goalie is the current Conn Smythe Trophy holder and that is because he can turn in on especially during the playoffs.
As long as the mind games continue, it’s clear the Toronto Maple Leafs have a chance to close this series. The moment they stop is the moment Tampa has wrenched back control; hopefully that’s something that doesn’t happen.