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Maple Leafs Get Clobbered by Lightning: What Can Be Improved?

The Toronto Maple Leafs just didn’t get beat by the Tampa Bay Lightning, they got clobbered. What can they improve for Game 2?

Game 1 was a disaster for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Tampa Bay Lightning dominated them for the entire game; and, in the end, came up with a 7-3 win in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. For the Lightning, Brayden Point scored two goals while Nikita Kucherov and Corey Perry each had a goal and two assists. Anthony Cirelli and Ross Colton contributed a goal and an assist each, while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored for the Lightning. The Lightning scored four power-play goals. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves in his 100th playoff start.

Not Much Good News for the Maple Leafs

For the Maple Leafs, Ryan O’Reilly, William Nylander, and Calle Jarnkrok scored. Mitch Marner tallied three assists and Auston Matthews added two. Toronto winger Michael Bunting received a match penalty and game misconduct for an illegal hit to the head of Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak.

Game 2 is set for Thursday night in Toronto.

After the Game Sheldon Keefe Was Asked to Assess the Damage

Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media after his team’s 7-3 loss. The hot topics for the media included (a) the team’s slow start, (b) the possibility of the team’s nervousness or tentativeness, (c) Michael Bunting’s match penalty for a hit to the head, and (d) the failed goaltending interference challenge that led to Tampa’s 6-2 goal.

He also spoke about the performance of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Keefe also said it was too early to know whether Joseph Woll would start Game 2 and that it is the nature of a playoff series to have to respond.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Vasilevskiy, O’Reilly & Knies

And, According to Coach Keefe …

According to coach Keefe’s comments, here are the things his team needs to improve on.

Area of Improvement One: Improved Defensive Play

First, the team needs to improve their defensive play, especially around their net. The team was giving up uncharacteristic tap-in goals and losing battles around the net.

Area of Improvement Two: Improved Confidence

Keefe admitted that he sensed nervousness or tentativeness among the team early on in the game, which may have affected their play. However. he didn’t think nerves played a role in their defensive lapses.

Area of Improvement Three: Improved Carefulness

Although coach Keefe seemed to offer Michael Bunting a measure of grace in regard to his match penalty for a hit to the head, still there’s a need to be more careful with the physicality of the game. Keefe noted that Bunting’s “situation” was that he was trying to win a race for the puck and it got away from him.

Area of Improvement Four: Improved Special Team’s Play

However, the Maple Leafs’ special teams’ play was interesting, to say the least. I’ve never seen two goals scored with less than a few seconds left in the period two times – ever, that I can remember. But the Lightning did it both at the end of the first period and then again at the end of the second period.

Perhaps it was simply misfortune, or perhaps the Maple Leafs believed the Lighting would let the clock wind down. But credit the Lightning for NOT letting the clock wind down. Those two goals took the wind out of the sails.

It also made it tough to judge the Maple Leafs’ five-on-five play.

Related: Four Reasons Why Matthew Knies Isn’t Starting Game 1

On a Positive Note for the Maple Leafs

Finally, coach Keefe thought that Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner had a lot of jump in their games. They were consistently buzzing around in the offensive zone.

Grocery List of Things to Fix for Game 2

based on Sheldon Keefe’s post-game comments, these are the key points the Maple Leafs need to do better at if they stand a chance of winning Game 2.

  1. The Maple Leafs need to improve their defending around their own net. They need to manage rebounds and inside defense.
  2. The team must avoid being on their heels early in the game. They need to overcome their nervousness or tentativeness.
  3. The team needs to reduce penalties and avoid match penalties like Michael Bunting’s hit to the head.
  4. The Maple Leafs need to shake it off and respond to a tough loss and the nature of a playoff series.
  5. The team needs to generate more flow in their five-on-five play.
  6. The Maple Leafs need to make better defensive decisions. They conceded several uncharacteristic goals.
  7. The team needs to win more puck battles in front of their own net. There were too many easy tap-ins.

Related: What Are the Odds the Maple Leafs Will Beat the Lightning?



  1. Jon Harding

    April 19, 2023 at 6:05 am

    Agree with most of what you’ve gleaned from the postgame OP, and respect that you’ve steered clear of throwing negative darts at specific players, and also been fair with Bunting. Today will be a nasty day for these guys and makes me think they should pull the old trick of moving into a hotel at home. I’ll make one or two comments here then myself. Leadership. They brought in Marleau to hold hands. They brought in Thornton to hold hands. Spezza did the same and it looked like the entire team including Keefe were looking to O’Reilly for answers last night. What does this say about this group? About its stars? About the captain? I’m sure there is some long answer with psychology streaming through it and citing the fact professional sports has generally turned into a weird social experiment overall. It just shouldn’t be this difficult. It’s a game.

  2. Roy Peters

    April 19, 2023 at 9:18 am

    Keefe should look in the mirror Cooper did a quick line change for the 2nd goal against what did Keefe do nada, tap ins who was the defesemen who let the player take the puck by him to the front of the net Justin Holl. I want Liligren instead of Holl playing at least Liligren can skate , Holl gets up the ice and can’t get back to join the play he is always behind the play.

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