Leafs Postgame: Double Agent

Manipulated Photo. Original Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY SPORTS

You just knew that this game was going to end up this way. The TV broadcasts made it all about Steven Stamkos. The fans made it all about Steven Stamkos. The Bolts needed a win, so they were probably looking towards their high-scoring captain. The Leafs, well, they were an accessory to the process.

The end result? The scoresheet was all Stamkos, all the time. Mostly because it was a very short scoresheet, as the Lightning defeated the Leafs by a score of 1-0.

The last goal of this game came seven minutes before the Leafs took their first shot on goal. Forty seconds after Roman Polak was tossed into the box for a puck-over-glass infraction, the hero Toronto deserves set up shot. Stamkos’ first attempt at the off-wing one-timer was unsuccessful, but when Former Leafs defenceman Anton Stralman found him for a second attempt at the left hashmarks, Stamkos went into one of his trademark knee drops and put all his weight into a rocket that beat Jonathan Bernier to open the scoring.

From there… not a lot happened. The Leafs gave up a couple of penalties throughout the period, and about twelve minutes in, they finally took their first shot; one of 30 that Andrei Vasilevskiy would shove aside. 

The second period started off in a bit of a weird fashion. Frank Corrado took an interference penalty that wasn’t quite interference, though some would argue that it would have been an elbow regardless. Nikita Kucherov was sent off for a dive, but it didn’t appear that he had actually embellished. Brian Boyle and Nazem Kadri started jousting. Needless to say, the refs had a tough job to do for a while, especially when the Leafs were attempting to generate offence like this:

Amazingly, the Leafs outshot Tampa 11-5 in the second, a trend that continued into the third. Even with the added pressure, though, they couldn’t convert anything into an equalizer before the final buzzer sounded, allowing them to continue their three-way tie for last place with Edmonton and Columbus.

Why The Tank Won

What a fantastic, fantastic man. Some will point to Toronto being practically absent for the first 10-15 minutes of the game as the biggest reason that he had the opportunity to send a one-timer into its own orbit, but hey, someone has to do something with the gifts that they receive, no?

Blue Warrior

Jonathan Bernier was absolutely fantastic in net tonight, stopping 29 of 30 shots against him. As stressed repeatedly before, that Stamkos goal was powered by the best version of one of the league’s most elite shots, so it’s hard to fault him for it. Whether the Leafs decide to keep him or move him, it’s crucial that Bernier finds consistent success, for their sake and its own.

Honourable mentions goes to Dion Phaneuf, who was a rock on the point tonight, even if the Bolts weren’t all-too-pleased with his physicality. 

Misplay of the Game

I can excuse the stretch of counting William Nylander as a Leaf for the sake of an argument, and I can excuse Glenn Healy reading Marlies facts off a sheet (not all of us have time to pay attention to two leagues front to back), but man, that’s a huge misplay by the stock footage by the Sportsnet Crew. Alex Nylander got two clips. William got none. If nothing else, it might help his draft stock.

See You Next Time

It’s over for a while! Not a moment too soon, either. The Leafs get six days off now, with the exception of Leo Komarov, who will be headed to Nashville shortly to take part in the All-Star festivities. The full team has their next real game on Tuesday when they take on the Boston Bruins in Boston. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.

  • magesticRAGE

    Typical poor bernier game with another patented early goal against. I don’t think he came ready to play but looked better in the late stages of the game.

    I still take Reimer in net every day of the week over shaky Bernier. Also Polak and Bozak had awful games again.

    • Harte of a Lion

      I guess you didn’t watch the game. Bernier was great, stopped two shots by JOHNSON in alone IMMEDIATELY after Polak’s penalty was over. That would have made it 2-0. He stoned him.
      We all knew about the pain… Well fans here it is.
      I have no problem watching my Leafs as long as I see there is effort and though they are starting games slowly, for the most part they try. They do not have the talent throughout the lineup to compete and it must get frustrating when you give effort and get no results. If you think it’s hard watching, imagine how hard it is for our players…
      You can feel the frustration when you see the faces on the bench however, compare this team to last years and I would rather watch this group any and every day.
      You may call me crazy but I BeLeaf in Shanahan, in Babcock, Dubas Lou and the rest of this group who will bring us a winner.

      If you want exciting hockey, go to Ricoh and watch the Marlies. These young guys will be the core of the big team for years to come. They are playing .800 hockey… YES, THATS .800

  • jimithy

    The Leafs are not the first on Stamkos’ Christmas list, as if you didn’t know. He will end up with the Rangers or the Black Hawks or the Islanders. Toronto is an abyss. Toronto is where nothing happens and then nothing happens again. That’s Toronto. Because nobody really cares in Toronto, they just think that everything will eventually happen in Toronto because it’s Toronto, an original six, and it’s the Leafs, and once again, it’s the Leafs. The Leafs by the way have been playing you like a fool for so long it has become a part of your reality. The Stanley Cup is a joke to MLSE. All they care about is making you believe in bull.

  • STAN

    Bernier and the Tampa goaltender’s posts and crossbar were the only reasons the Leafs were in this at all.

    I disagree that Phaneuf was a dominant Leaf. He made several boneheaded plays and couldn’t finish, TWICE, point blank and in close on the Tampa net-minder..

    LeafsNation needs a six-day break.

  • Harte of a Lion

    i don’t like bernier and hope to god lou somehow works some magic and gets good value for him but he had a great game. only reason it wasn’t a blow out early on was because of him. now both goalies are playing great and the offence/defence is no where to be found. oh well, it’s helping the tank and bernier is raising his trade value but the trade chips are losing value by not scoring! a major dilemma…

    • Jeremy Ian

      I agree; once the Leafs recovered from their typical first-ten-minute-hangover, they played a decent game. Tampa’s so stacked with talent, but the Leafs started to shut them down pretty effectively.

      And then there was the expected:

      Grabner blanking on breakaways. Two of them last night.

      Matthias, speed and work in the corners, but having a hard time making a pass

      Corrado stapled to the bench after his penalty; poor guy, 5:39 ice time.

      Matt Hunwick, 25:27 TOI. He played an ok game this time, actually. But that’s heavy lifting.

      Winnik’s time is sliding with every game. Glad this break is coming, because it looks like he really needs to shake off that injury.

      The core played fairly well after the recovery. Babcock adjusted them well. Again, the awful starts are a real enigma.