Lightning Wins, 4-1, in a Game the Leafs Coulda Won, 4-1
This clash of the East's top two teams wasn't nearly the preview of an Atlantic Division Finals that many anticipated it would be.
Instead, Tampa Bay and Toronto offered a glimpse of what hockey looks like in the Twilight Zone.
The Lightning skaters did everything possible to lose this game, and the Maple Leafs kept doing their best to make it so.
And the NHL's No 1 overall points leader -- The 'Ning have 51 -- did just that.
But they got the 4-1 decision in spite of stats that accurately portrayed the way the game went:
- Toronto carpet-bombed Andrei Vasilevskiy with shots, while Tampa Bay managed only 27;
- Toronto controlled possession with the help of a 61% success rate on faceoffs; and
- Toronto was +6 in giveaways/takeaways.
It's like the Lightning just won at vending machine bingo.
- The Maple Leafs logged multiple minutes in the offensive zone,
- The Lightning were virtually invisible in the second period, and
- The Lightning didn't even record a third-period shot until the 14:30 mark.
In other words, this was a classic example of how valuable a hot goalie can be.
And this double-save is as hot as it gets:
There's got to be an element of luck in that blind kick-out, but this isn't the first time dude's done that maneuver.
Put all this together, and while the highlight reel tries, it doesn't come close to doing the irony of a Tampa Bay victory justice:
That rather egregious giveaway resulting in Tampa Bay's first goal was provided by recent returner William Nylander, whose new contract terms were so obvious that it's a mystery why the deal couldn't have been done last summer.
- Dude's deal prorates his pay this year so he'll receive what amounts to a full-year's salary this season as if he didn't miss any time, and
- It wouldn't be a surprise that this was the deal agreed last summer in case a more agreeable arrangement couldn't be made before this year's signing deadline to be eligible to play this season.
OK, then. Suffice to say Nylander may have been working out in Sweden during the holdout, but he's not yet up to speed with Toronto.
When he gets there, though, Vasilevskiy may have to spend an entire playoff series standing on his head to keep the Leafs at bay. Dudes will be rolling quality lines at him in waves.