When the Maple Leafs had great special teams in the regular season and carried them into Game 1, it was another sign they were ready to join serious playoff contenders.
But the power play and penalty kill are also a reason that the Tampa Bay Lightning are back-to-back Cup champions. In their most recent title, they were at 30.1% with the man advantage and just under 85% on the kill. And the roles were reversed Wednesday in key moments, with the slightest breaks turning into gold for the Bolts.
Round 1 was clearly Toronto’s, the David Kampf shorty and a 5-on-3 power-play goal by Auston Matthews. But in Game 2, thanks mostly to Andrei Vasilevskiy extending those long legs, the Leafs were denied on two first-period chances that could have given them and their loud crowd early momentum.
The Lightning pressed in the dying seconds of the frame and benefited from a bounce to isolate Victor Hedman on Jack Campbell. Hedman usually mans the point with all that firepower on his unit, but moved to an ideal position to fool Campbell.
Kampf was on the ice kicking himself on that goal and was involved in another mix-up in the second period as the Leafs were doing a good job on a Wayne Simmonds’ minor. Kampf got control of the puck and tried to feed TJ Brodie coming behind him on the breakout, without realizing Brodie had lost his stick. Steven Stamkos and Hedman pounced on the miscue and quickly set up Nikita Kucherov.
Toronto was taxed killing off three minors in a 12-minute span and, when given the opportunity to respond late in the second when fourth-liner Pierre Edouard Bellemare clutched Mitch Marner, the flat Leafs were outshot 4-0. Simmonds was also off when Brayden Point made it a 3-for-6 night for the visitors’ power play.
OFF THE CLIFF
Tampa coach Jon Cooper wasn’t interested in piling on the Kyle Clifford suspension.
“I don’t think Clifford went in there to hurt the guy,” Cooper said of the one game Clifford was assessed for Monday’s boarding of Ross Colton. “I don’t think he thought that was the result that was going to happen. I think Colton had a chance to prepare himself for it, it probably wouldn’t have been the same result. He just didn’t see him coming.
“I don’t think there was malice on Clifford that he was going to smash his face into the glass. Probably warranted a suspension the way things are going.”
Simmonds and King Clancy come from two very different eras of the Leafs.
But Simmonds, whose strong support for diversity in the game through various initiatives around the NHL and even more in his native Scarborough since signing in Toronto, is the club nominee for the trophy named for the franchise icon.
The Clancy award goes “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community”.
Simmonds helped form the Hockey Diversity Alliance as the struggles of pro and amateur minority players were put under a microscope the past couple of years. The 33-year-old winger has also spoken out when it seemed HDA’s message was not being publicized in the league, as evidenced by hockey parents and young players reaching out to alert him to stories of their difficulties.
In Scarborough, he organized youth sports events such as an annual ball hockey tournament, fulfilling a promise to his mother to give back to the community if he ever became a success.
All 32 teams pick a Clancy nominee, the winner chosen by a league panel led by deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
In a wide-ranging self-penned article in The Players’ Tribune, entitled ‘I Am Who I Am’, Nazem Kadri dishes on his time in Toronto, his reluctance to leave and how hard a string of playoff suspensions has weighed upon him. Confirming he nixed a trade to Calgary in 2019, Kadri said he was not averse to playing for a good team in another Canadian city, but that his heart was in Toronto after 10 years.
“The thing that I think always connected me to Toronto was that I got it, you know? I got how badly the fans wanted to win. I got how frustrating the jokes about ’67 were. I got the passion, I understood. And Toronto was my home.
“I made my case to (general manager Kyle Dubas) that I wanted to be there. We had an exciting young core with Auston, Mitch, Willy, Morgan — a great, talented group. And I just wanted to be part of the team that finally won a Cup. That’s all I wanted.
“But it’s a business, and what happened in those 2019 playoffs against the Bruins made it tough. I know.”
Kadri took himself out of the lineup again with an over-the -top hit in retaliation for a teammate getting run. The five games were his fifth multiple-match suspension as a Leaf — two in the playoffs — with another to come after he joined Colorado in a trade that landed the Leafs Alex Kerfoot. Kadri had a career year for the Avs with 87 points and an assist in his first appearance in their series-opening win over Nashville.
Bunting’s intensity, impact would be welcomed by Maple Leafs for potential participation in Game 2
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One late lineup change for the Lightning saw ex-Leafs defenceman Zach Bogosian draw in for Jan Rutta, who took a couple of shots from Morgan Rielly in the late Game 1 scrum. Rutta had also been scratched in two of the Bolts’ final three regular-season games … It’s been an exciting spring for Kampf, playing every game for the Leafs and via social media announcing he and wife Eliska Stedronska are expecting their first child in September. “Kampfer is good for us on the penalty kill, he’s been there for us all year, played all 82 games, being responsible and scoring more goals,” said Rielly … Trevor Moore had the best opening night of any ex-Leaf as the playoffs got rolling, three points as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Edmonton Oilers. He shares a California birth certificate with Matthews … William Nylander revealed his iffy status for Game 1 was down to food poisoning from some suspect sushi.