LGD: Jolt the Bolts

October 25th, 2016. Frederik Andersen goes in between the pipes for the Maple Leafs, having let in about 12% of the shots he had faced in the previous four games. Something was clearly up; he wasn’t playing like he did in Anaheim, and nobody could pinpoint why. The likeliest reason was recovery from his shoulder injury, but combine some under-confidence and you had a goalie who was playing far too aggressive and getting beat up high.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are in town. Eighty seconds in, Steven Stamkos, a man who was potentially a better meeting away from signing with the Leafs, scores his fourth of the year. It was far from Andersen’s last whiff of the game; pucks beat him again, and again, and again. A guy behind me wrote Freddy off, as much as I would insist about the shoulder thing, about how this would all settle, and how this was a playoff team.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. The Leafs are taking on the Bolts again, they’re three points back of third in the Atlantic with three games in hand, and Andersen is a 0.939 in his 24 games since.

The Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

Likely no changes from last night. Shouldn’t be a big deal, so long as half the forwards fare better. Last night, the Kadri and Gauthier lines were both sub-20% in the shot attempts department; they’ll need a way better effort tonight.

The Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

No Stamkos, no Callahan, no Namestnikov… the Lightning are still dressing some good forwards, but the team looks a fair bit weaker when you shave some of the top off. Matthew Peca is playing powerplay minutes,  to give an idea of what the situation is there.

With that said, the defence is still relatively healthy and I wouldn’t wish facing Hedman and Stralman on my worst enemy.

Lineups courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

Starting Goaltenders

Despite the hype-job I just gave Frederik Andersen in the opening paragraph, we’re probably going to see Antoine Bibeau make his second career appearance. His first game was a loss, but not one that can be blamed on him; he stopped 26 of 28 while Semyon Varlamov had the game of his life on the other side.

Tama Bay will also likely look to their backup, but that’s because Ben Bishop is injured. Andrei Vasilevskiy is going to take a chance at a back-to-back, having gone 19 for 22 last night.

What To Look Out For

Both teams are gassed, both teams are close in the standings, and the Leafs have the very slight edge in Last 10 game performance, goal differential, points percentage, and most underlying numbers. This should be a real nailbiter of a game weher the Blue and White ultimately come out on top.

Which logo, though? Beats me. Puck drop is at 7:30.

  • Stan Smith

    Are they contenders or pretenders? I think tonight will be a indication. Both teams played last night so neither team has the advantage there. Seeing as the Leafs are just going from Miami to Tampa neither team had to travel.

    The Lightning do have two advantages. First they are at home. Second is they are playing in front of Vasilevskiy, whom they have tons of confidence in. The Leafs have not won a game without Andersen in nets this season. Bibeau did play well in his only other game but it was still a loss.

    If the Leafs can overcome those two obstacles, and win, they just might make a run for it. If not, they aren’t quite there yet.

    • Harte of a Lion

      Stan, I’m not certain that a loss tonight indicates where they are this season. If you take away the first month of the season, they have been playing better than the rest of the team above them in the Atlantic and in the December, they have played better than, and have had more success than Montreal, even if that’s only a slight advantage. (1 point)
      They have improved each month both in points and advanced stats and as a fan who speculated an 80-82 point season would be a success, they are by far exceeding my expectations.
      Let’s hope Bibeau has another solid game. I’ve watched him develop from his time with Charlottetown and Val d’Or Foreurs and their championship season in 2014, through his time with the Marlies. IMO, he is a goalie that depends on confidence as much as athleticism. When Bibeau is ‘on’ he is unbeatable and can make those ‘how the f*ck did he do that’ saves that deflate the opposition. It seems he is easily distracted at times and suffers from JonathanBernieritis also known as VesaToskalitis. If he ever puts the mental side of his game together, he has the talent and athleticism to be an above average NHL goalie.
      Let’s Go Leafs, if Tampa tries to skate with the Leafs tonight the Leafs will get them some revenge for the thrashing they took at the ACC.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        This will be a tough game for our Leafs. The last of four in a row road games. So far we have come away with 6 out of a possible 6 points in the 1st three games. Tampa Bay knows how to score.

      • LukeWarmWater

        Harte truly a hilarious posting. Remind me to avoid in the New Year Bernierits and Toskalitis. I will check with my M.D. to see if there is a vaccine for seniors against these dreaded diseases that cause SIEVE GOAL TENDING.

          • Harte of a Lion

            Stan, Win or lose tonight, the season doesn’t ride in the balance. As I keep preaching, as long as we as fans can see the growth and the process, we finally have something to get excited about. Last year I predicted in October 72 points and they fell short. This year they have the potential to hit the 90 point plateau so I guess I’ll be eating my words but it will be a pleasure to do so.
            In October the team looked young and afraid to win. Through Babcock’s teachings and patience, this team is learning how to win and that’s between the ears, not between the boards.
            GO LEAFS!
            The bandwagon is getting crowded however if they end up sub .500, there will be a lot more room for us true fans.

          • Stan Smith

            I really didn’t mean the season was dependent on this game, just that it would be a good measuring stick for where they are right now. With it being back to back (despite it also being B to B for the bolts too) and with Bibeau in nets, they could have written the game off as a loss, but they didn’t, and came through with an impressive win. It shows, for the present at least, that the Leafs do have what it takes to battle for that last playoff spot.