Leafs Round 1 Game 4 Recap: Gut Check

You don’t always get the chance to watch the Leafs get their teeth kicked in early May with your mom on Mother’s Day, so savour this one, folks. Everything about that game was bad if you are a Leaf fan. The Leafs’ start was bad, as were their stars, the refereeing was bad, and the Sportsnet betting segments were especially bad! But, I am trying to not get too negative about this group, so having some perspective is key here. Yes, the whole three-hour experience sucked, but the Leafs were playing with house money of some sort here. They won game three, got the home-ice advantage back and should be able to just forget about this performance. Let’s dive a little deeper into game four.

If you’re Toronto, you probably expect Tampa to start game 3 on the front foot after what happened in game three. That’s precisely what happened. Right from the first faceoff Ross Colton was a little rat, and the Lightning was off and running. However, the Leafs clearly were not prepared for what they knew was going to happen, as the game was practically over before it really even started. Eight minutes in, and the Bolts already had a 3-0 lead, and Leaf fans are thinking, now what? Well, it took them half a period, but the Leafs actually started to control play despite this, leading to no goals and not much excitement. 

The second was a pretty bizarre period which saw seven penalties be called, and probably two of them were actually good calls. Tampa’s fourth goal was specifically frustrating for the Leafs as it was so avoidable. 

The Leafs should be getting a two-on-one out of a situation like this! Instead, it is turned over weakly, and Ross Colton gets a partial breakaway that every pro goalie in the world should save but isn’t. The Leafs didn’t play well enough to get lucky bounces, and that’s how goals like the Lightning’s fourth happen. I would’ve taken Jack Campbell out after this personally. The game is over and there is no point in keeping him out there. After that, the Lightning then scored a five on three power-play goal which happened because this was called a penalty

We are getting some really, really good contenders for the worst call of the playoffs in this series. Here’s another one just for funsies.

Not zero, not one, but two penalties were called on this play! It is horrendous both ways. 

Some other goals were scored in the third period, but who cares? Let’s talk big picture. The Leafs’ best players need to be called out because they just have not been good enough at even-strength. Yet again, Matthews’s line was dominated by Brayden Point and co.

This is not good enough for the man who will be MVP of the league and his sidekick who almost had 100 points this season. I’m not sure if there needs to be a change made; it certainly couldn’t hurt. John Tavares desperately needs a spark from literally anything; it looks like he’s slower than ever, and William Nylander seems dejected out there. This is these four guys’ last chance to win together, and maybe they don’t care about that. But from everything I’ve read and seen, this is their chance to do what they’ve wanted to do and shut people up. They need to put the team on their back for the rest of the series. It is their job to do that. 

In terms of lineup stuff, you can always try swapping Marner and Nylander to try and start some sort of fire, but other than that, the options are limited. Kerfoot should stay in the top six, and I liked Kase’s game tonight, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him keep his spot. Timothy Liljegren should come back into the lineup next game, and either Lybushkin or Holl will come out; it doesn’t really matter which one. Liljegren’s skating ability is needed against Tampa. Too often, our defensemen are losing races to pucks or getting turned around by faster guys, and it’s creating massive issues at the back. Simmonds or Clifford can come back in if Keefe really thinks that is going to help, at this point, who really cares. I think you have to be versatile! Ride the hot guys, mix and match but in the right spots. Let guys get into a flow with each other but be quick to pull the trigger if you sense things are not working. We have the skill to be creative with our lineups, so do it.

Things are not bleak, my friends! Not yet, at least. This has been a series of big leads and inconsistent play throughout the games. Tampa’s had fifteen combined power-plays in their two wins! I hope for everything holy that game five will be a fluid game where we actually get to see these teams battle at five on five. I hate cliches more than most things on earth, but we do need to believe in this team, or else what was the point of devoting the last eight months to watching them. There’s still that curse hanging above our head, but it is begging, yearning to be broken. You can just feel it. Game five, Scotiabank Arena, is going to be rocking. Let’s Go, Buds.

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