What an absolute stinker. At least that’s the case if you’re a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs following their 7-3 blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. The two teams combined for seven first period goals, in which the Maple Leafs came out down one heading into the second frame.
While the Maple Leafs disappointed the home crowd, the Lightning saw one of their standouts from last season have an impressive debut to the season, while their opponents in blue and white can still find some silver linings in the early-season loss.
Andersen Not Bad, Not Great
Say what you will about Frederik Andersen so far this season, but he hasn’t been as bad as the scoreboard would indicate in this Thursday night affair. Sure, he gave up seven goals and sure he probably would want at least three of them back, but at a certain point you can solely put this on the shoulders of the goaltender.
The first two goals by the Lightning were two that Andersen could’ve likely stopped and the final one in which he gave the puck up to Nikita Kucherov, can all be attributed to poor goaltending – at least this time around. But it’s hard to argue against having let in the other four goals.
He saw tips and one-timers and realistically the Lightning offence was just given far too much space to move in the offensive zone. So while he could’ve kept the game a little closer, Andersen wasn’t the worst part of the Maple Leafs game on Thursday. That award goes to their defence.
Oh Defence, Where Art Thou?
On power play goals, it’s understandable that the Lightning are first able to gain the offensive zone, but also that the Maple Leafs collapse inside their defensive zone to allow their opponents to control the outside half-boards. The problem is the Maple Leafs were doing the same thing at five-on-five, at least on a number of the Lightning goals.
On top of that, it almost seemed as though the Maple Leafs were having trouble keeping up with the Lightning’s quickness, which shouldn’t be the case as Toronto has a high-flying roster as well. But on a number of occasions, the Maple Leafs were chasing the puck or the player with the puck instead of trying to steer them off to the sides.
This was the case on the Kevin Shattenkirk goal. Not only did the Lightning defenceman pick up the puck just outside the Maple Leafs’ blue line and weave his way in, but he also moved through three Maple Leafs defenders before getting the puck up and over Andersen. Add to that Morgan Rielly made a weak effort at the puck with one hand on his stick and it’s hard to argue against the team’s defence being abysmal in this contest.
Even captain John Tavares had some choice words for the team.
“We have to do a lot better job of defending,” he said to TSN’s Mark Masters. “Letting seven in at home is just unacceptable.”
Matthews Keeps Rolling
One bright spot for the Maple Leafs is that Auston Matthews’ pointless streak ended at one game. Doesn’t make for much of a streak, does it.
The star forward scored his sixth goal of the season late in the first period and added his first assist of the season earlier in the frame. With it, he has seven points in just five games to start the year with the team.
He was also second to Mitch Marner in the game among Maple Leafs’ forwards with 18:02 of ice-time, including 2:22 of power play time.
Making a Point
What a debut for Lightning forward Brayden Point. Coming off a 41-goal season, the 23-year-old forward played his first game of the 2019-20 season on Thursday against the Maple Leafs and picked up right where he left off.
Point opened the scoring just 2:28 into the first period and before adding an assist on the Steven Stamkos goal late in the frame. He added on more tally – the only goal in the second period – to make it a 5-3 game at the time and finished the night with three points.
He showed no signs of letting up with five shots on goal and he played just over 19 minutes in his first game – including nearly four minutes on the power play.
Simply Out Played
Silver linings or not, the result was simple. The Lightning simply out-played the Maple Leafs in every aspect of the game. The outshot them (33-28), had more power play opportunities and produced when given the chances. The out-hit the Maple Leafs and blocked more shots. In fact, the only category where the Maple Leafs came out on top is with giveaways – the Maple Leafs only gave up the puck seven times with the Lightning having given it away nine times.
Aside from that, the Lightning skated faster and the results were there. The Maple Leafs gave them too much room to work and their opponents took advantage of the space they created by moving the puck around in the offensive zone and finding the seams.
It wasn’t a pretty game for the Maple Leafs, but it’s certainly a lesson for the team early on in the season.
Also Worth Noting…
Tavares tallied his first goal of the new campaign around the seven-minute mark of the first period. It goes along with his three assists this season, giving him four points through the first five games as the team’s new captain.
Justin Holl also tallied his first point of the season – an assist on the Tavares goal. The defenceman has been in the lineup for the Maple Leafs in three of their first five games. The assist brings his career totals to two goals and two assists in 16 career games with the Maple Leafs.
It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Maple Leafs who won’t have much time to dwell on this loss as they look ahead to playing the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday in Detroit.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.