Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY SPORTS
Before there were hot streaks, there were games like these. Games where the Toronto Maple Leafs seemed so totally in control of the flow but had zero ability to shape the result. For an organization looking to add another blue-chip prospect, those games are the best; they show that your team is capable of doing good things, but prevent you from having your lottery odds diminished. Even still, a 3-0 shutout is a rough way to get that result and exactly the path that the Leafs took tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Toronto poured shots on Ben Bishop right from the start, but it became obvious very early that this wasn’t going to be an easy night. William Nylander’s gorgeous feed to Brad Boyes which turned into a save of the year candidate set the tone for Tama Bay’s first goal of the game at the seven and a half minute mark, which saw Mike Blunden rocket a one-timer past Garret Sparks. The rookie had a less-than-stellar showing statistically, and it was only made worse after Ondrej Palat baseball-swung a one-timer into his open five hole ten minutes later.
The Lightning added one more goal to the pile midway through the second. Steven Stamkos, who could very well have been playing his last game ever against the Maple Leafs tonight, pumped the brakes at the right hash marks, spun around, and backhanded a pass to Victor Hedman, who roofed it top shelf to make it 3-0. While Toronto kept pressing, outshooting Tampa Bay 16-5 for the rest of the game, they weren’t able to beat Bishop even once before the final buzzer, allowing him to pick up the shutout.
Let’s go with William Nylander, just because I’m in disbelief that this fantastic play wasn’t rewarded. He was also a 75% possession player tonight, which is pretty bonkers.
Highlight of the Night
The pushing and shoving at the end of tonight’s game was likely the result of players being told to watch their mouths, but Jonathan Bernier perhaps most deserves the same advance for a different reason.
See You Next Time
The end of the season is upon us! The Leafs are down to a lucky seven games remaining until they find out if the lottery balls will land in their favour. The next of which comes tomorrow, as they take on the Florida Panthers. Puck drop is at 7:30 PM.
Oh, and Steven… 96 days.