What a comeback. The Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t score on the Tampa Bay Lightning for 59 minutes and then, in about four minutes, they scored two goals – one to tie the game with 41 seconds left in the third period and the second to win the game with about 90 seconds left in the overtime period.
John Tavares tied it for Toronto in regulation and William Nylander scored on a power play late in overtime to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 triumph over the Lightning last night. Jack Campbell made 24 saves, and Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner each registered two assists. Toronto improved to 6-4-1 with its fourth straight victory.
In this post, I’ll share my three takeaways from the game.
Takeaway One: John Tavares Is Finding His Game Through Hard Work
In his post-game interview, Sheldon Keefe admitted that he didn’t think that John Tavares or his line “had much happening” for most of the game. However, Keefe admitted that Tavares just didn’t quit playing hard, and “there is just the confidence of him when he got a chance to get it to go in for him. It wasn’t going for them early, but that is a big-time shot that he scored there tonight.”
Keefe also noted that Tavares “has been getting rewarded because he has worked. I (Keefe) thought he worked hard and competed hard tonight, but there just wasn’t a whole lot of offense available.”
Still, Tavares made the most of what he was given; and, – probably second to goalie Jack Campbell who kept his team in the game when they were down and being pressed – was mostly responsible for the win. He jumped into the air to stop a clearing pass and then moved straight to the net. A pass from Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner returned to Tavares. He made a great shot to tie the game.
Then, with the game in overtime, Tavares drew a slashing penalty. The team loaded up the four-on-three, and the Maple Leafs’ best forward of the year so far – William Nylander – scored the winner.
Good play and good work ethic for Tavares. Nice win for the Maple Leafs.
Takeaway Two: Jack Campbell Can Hang in There With the Best of Them
Campbell made 24 stops to help hold the Maple Leafs in this game, especially during a tough third period when the Lightning started to press hard. Both Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos broke in alone on Campbell and both were stopped. In fact, during the third period, Campbell made save after save – often difficult ones and one right after the other. He’s proven that he can help his team stay in games when they are behind and have a chance to win.
The only downside to Campbell’s success in goal is that he’s going to become a UFA during the offseason and it might be tough for the Maple Leafs to sign him for less than $5 million per season. Who needs to go to keep him?
The rumor is that Campbell and the Maple Leafs had preliminary talks before the season but won’t negotiate until after the season is completed. The Fourth Period reported that the Maple Leafs were at about $75.28 million for next season; and, although the salary cap’s upper limit will likely rise to about $82.5 million, there are still some other players to re-sign next year. Three of those are two UFA’s (Ilya Mikheyev and Jason Spezza) and one RFA (Rasmus Sandin).
But all that is a future problem, and for tonight Maple Leafs’ fans can know that Campbell was brilliant in this game. His saves simply kept his team in the game when one wrong move would have ended it in a loss.
Takeaway Three: Jake Muzzin Is Having a Tough Season
Jake Muzzin has been struggling this season, and that’s surprising. According to the advanced analytics and my eyeball test, last season he was one of the Maple Leafs’ best defensemen and one of the best in the NHL. But tonight he cost his team a goal when he made a pass into the slot while he was deep in the offensive zone.
He couldn’t recover, nor could his teammates. That pass led directly to a two-on-one that ended in the Lightning’s first goal. Muzzin had his best game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but his strong games have been few this season.
Fortunately, the rest of the Maple Leafs’ defense was solid tonight for – at least the first two periods. Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin continue to play well together. And, T.J. Brodie had a strong game as well.
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