When Game 3 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning was completed, the Maple Leafs had taken away an overtime win by the score of 4-3. And with that win, they had also taken a 2-1 lead in their playoff series.
The best thing about the game was that Toronto won. They also scored four goals, which should be enough to win most games.
That said, they could have easily lost Game 3. After the game, there was a lot of gamesmanship resulting in a third-period dust-up between the two teams after a Morgan Rielly hit on Braden Point as both of them were going hard for a puck.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: O’Reilly, Knies, Rielly & Acciari
Outlining the Gamesmanship Between the Two Coaches
In a Sportsnet interview after the game, Shawn McKenzie and Luke Fox discussed the Maple Leafs and Lightning series after the first three games. As they noted, there have been blowouts, physicality, and nastiness on the ice. But, until Saturday night’s Maple Leafs’ win there wasn’t much gamesmanship.
Now it has begun off the ice.
Cooper and Keefe Exchanging Media Jabs
There’s been some back-and-forth between the coaches through the media. For example, the Maple Leafs have stopped making Ilya Samsonov available to the media. In that decision, they took a cue from the Lightning who do the same with Andrei Vasilevsky.
Other Aspects of the Coaches’ Gamesmanship
There’s something almost Shakespearean about the playing out of the coaches’ back-and-forth. In the classic play “Julius Caesar,” the character Brutus uses a technique of false praise to manipulate Caesar before betraying him.
In the play, Brutus says, “I love thee not, Caesar. But I care not for mine own life, much more for yours.” On the surface, Brutus seems to showe concern for Caesar’s well-being; however, the truth is that he’s actually using what he says as a ploy to cover for his own treachery.
Moving from Old England to present-day Florida, John Cooper is a master at twisting things through the media and has made a living out of it. He’s constantly working the media to make some ironic comment. For example, Cooper spent a great deal of time complementing Morgan Riley for being a solid person and an all-round good citizen. However, he then said something like “But, his hit was reckless.”
Sheldon Keefe did a similar sort of spin during his Game 3 post-game press conference. He complimented the “brilliance” of the Lightning – especially of Stephen Stamkos who was smart enough to know how the game would be called after Nikita Kucherov took the added penalty. No more penalties when the Lightning were already a man down. From Keefe’s perspective, it should have been a five-on-three for his team.
Keefe said the Lightning did a “brilliant job manipulating the officials” and, by doing so, dragging Austin Matthews and Ryan O’Reilly off the ice. By the end of the play, both Maple Leafs players were off for about eight minutes.
Related: Three Takeaways in Maple Leafs’ 4-3 OT Win over Lightning
Let the Games(manship) Begin
The gamesmanship is in full force, and the coaches are exchanging jabs through the media.
All that said, the Game 3 score is in the books. And, the Maple Leafs have a 2-1 series lead. However, there’s also a bit of a difference between this season and last season. As coach Keefe noted, Game 3 was a game his team might have lost in years past.
During the conversation between McKenzie and Fox, they spent some time on the delicate psyche of the Maple Leafs’ franchise. In some ways, the organization feels doomed. As a result, the win was a solid boost of confidence. While the team was fortunate to get that win, they got it.
Tampa controlled the play, but Toronto got the lucky break. Now the team has something to build off. The challenge now is to get a two-game cushion and take a 3-1 series lead.
Final Thoughts About This Playoff Series
The series between the Maple Leafs and Lightning is heating up. There have been fights on the ice and gamesmanship off the ice. All that said doesn’t change the fact that the Maple Leafs won Game 3.
Now, they need to build off of it and work to get a two-game cushion. If they can, it might become a tipping point for a franchise that feels doomed. Might this be the season?
Related: Count On Ilya Samsonov Signing Long-Term with the Maple Leafs
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