LGD- Tampa Bae

Coming off what has to go down as some of the of the worst six consecutive periods in the Randy Carlyle era, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to rebound against a divisional rival.

Luckily for the Leafs who have seen issues both defensively and in net, they’re playing the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning… who average 3.6 goals a game, second in the NHL (which is also where they currently sit in league standings.) Not exactly the type of team to face when you’re looking to get back on track.

The Leafs:

Projected Lineups via Daily Faceoff

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak- Phil Kessel
Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland -David Clarkson
Mike Santorelli – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Richard Panik – Trevor Smith – Josh Leivo
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
Morgan Rielly – Stephane Robidas

Tuesday’s game against Nashville provoked a lot of feelings in Leafs Nation, especially following a 6-2 performance against Buffalo on Saturday. The good news is that will most likely be the worst blowout of the year. The bad news is, the loss helped to highlight glaring and ongoing issues within the Leafs, mostly stemming from the defensive front. Additionally, it helped to reinforce that when not one, but two goaltenders have an off night, teams can look real, real bad. There isn’t much more to say about the Leafs that you probably don’t know or haven’t heard in the past few days, except that tonight’s result will likely have a massive impact on the general morale of a large portion of the fanbase.    

The Lightning:

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff
Valtteri Filppula – Steven Stamkos – Ryan Callahan 
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov
Jonathan Drouin – Vladislav Namestnikov – Alex Killorn
Brenden Morrow – Brian Boyle – Brett Connolly 
Anton Stralman-Matt Carle
Jason Garrison-Andrej Sustr 
Mark Barberio-Radko Gudas

It’s tough to properly gauge how skilled this lineup is, particularly because they’ve got the Steven Stamkos effect, where a superstar tends to raise point totals of his teammates. Whether the old adage of “shutting the key players down”  will prove effective, Tampa Bay does have eight players with at least ten points so far (in contrast, Toronto has five.) At any case, they’ve been able to put the puck in the net quite a bit this season. With an even strength possession putting 9th in league is promising, they’re also shooting the puck at the second best rate in the league, behind, oddly enough, the Calgary Flames. Their success may slow down soon, but right now, they’re as hot as anyone offensively.

In my personal experience playing ball hockey against future Leaf Stamkos, he’s got an uncanny ability to control the play both with and without the puck. While he didn’t score against me, (I did win a battle for the ball) he still netted two assists in less than five minutes. In short, he’s probably very good at ice hockey too. I’d look out for him if I were the Leafs, both tonight and as a free agent. (If you’d like to read more about that, click here). 

Calder Trophy candidate Jonathan Drouin has peformed solidly so far, putting up a goal along with eight assists in 14 games, averaging 13:43 in ice time. While not eye-popping, a solid season should put him in the conversation to take home rookie of the year.

And while the loss of Victor Hedman to a hand injury early in the year may have hurt the name value of the d-corps, but they’re a vastly underrated crew, led by one of the most underrated defenseman in the NHL in Anton Stralman, who suited up for 88 games in the Blue and White (the original kind). Tampa Bay concedes just 48.89 shot attempts against at 5v5 play per sixty minutes, good enough for fourth in the league. If their offence continues to produce and Ben Bishop stays healthy, Tampa’s looking like a seriously scary hockey team heading forward. 

As an aside, remember when Brenden Morrow was an Olympic-caliber player? 

Brenden Morrow Fun Fact #1: Along with Mike Richards and Dany Heatley, he’s one of three players from that Vancouver 2010 team who has since seen time on the fourth line. 

Brenden Morrow Fun Fact #2: He was born in Carlyle, Saskatchewan.

Starting Goalies:

Things to look out for:

-Waffles. After jersey tossing has somehow become the norm, Waffles have taken a backseat as the preferred on-ice projeticle. It seems like waffles are patiently waiting around to make a comeback, and tonight could be the night if the Leafs perform sub-par.

 -Inevitable discussion about the best course for a Leafs tank job.

-Richard Panik’s playing his former team.

-An unnamed player to score two goals or more in a Leafs loss, only to be slammed for not being quotable enough afterwards.

-Tampa Bay’s fifth-ranked powerplay has netted 16 goals this season, clicking at a 23.2 rate. Taking penalties probably isn’t the best idea against any team with Steven Stamkos on the top unit.

(stats via puckalytics.com, hockey-reference.com & nhl.com)

  • jimithy

    I actually like the idea of having kadri on the third line. Lets see how this works. Then again kadri is a amazing player like kessel where he can play on any line (should be on the first)

  • BubbaLou

    Mike Santorelli – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov, 3rd line. I’m going to cut against the grain here – what the hell is this crap?

    I thought it was made clear through highlights, and generally dismal effort, that Tyler Bozak is struggling to play defence. Well, struggling is not a good word for it – the complete lack of urgency on the backcheck, straight-legged cheating in neutral ice, has allowed 4 similar goals over 2 dismal games where Bozak is late to the goalscorer – who was his man the whole time.

    How many times in a given week do you need to see goals scored like this anyway?:

    Does this mean anything to the coach?


    But really, the problem continues to be this:




    Look at Gunnar – even he’s having a better time away from our Coach and his “Accountability”. How are the players HE CHASED OUT of Toronto doing? How are the players that reach this city doing under RC? And the real question – who is holding this guy accountable besides some fans?

  • BubbaLou

    Clarkson started the scoring after he and the Captain fought in the Third period of the Nashville game. Bozak with another 2 points against Tampa and in charge of shutting down Stamkos. 70% at the face-off dot. Most underrated player in the NHL. Gardiner again proving that his numbers-crunching admirers have no clue about hockey.

    • BubbaLou

      If you’re going to use stats, don’t go forgetting how they work – they’re strongest over multiple games.

      For the record, while Gardiner was +4%CFrel this game, Bozak was +13%CFrel. So, yeah, Bozak was better tonight than Gardiner – your eye-test was right. What was interesting is Bozak saw 2x the shots for and against Gardiner did- my context guess, Stamkos did it. As for fancystats Gardiner bias – dude, he’s not only down across the board this year, even on his good nights he has one serious blunder – I see it too. I wonder too.

      BTW, Nazem Kadri was 75% in the dot. And Stamkos scored anyway. But hey, most underrated 1C, keep pumping him up so we get dat trade value