When the disc goes to Nikita Kucherov on the half-wall in a game of strength, in theory, he doesn’t have much choice. at theoryHe can only: a) shoot him, or b) pass him. theoretically. But when he plays, he seems to have 100 choices. I believe he’s the best half-wall player in the NHL.
He can press the timer one time, in particular the small-cutter version that allows him to lift the wrestlers high out of the tight. He’s tricky with his fake shots, and he has the best view of the game, using all four of the other options on the rink. We seem to claim that everyone who shoots disc these days has a good layoff, which steals the credit that Kucherov deserves. I’m not sure anyone can go from “there’s no chance he shoots it” to “uh oh, he shot it” faster than #86 in Tampa.
In Wednesday night’s Leafs/Lightning match, in which Tampa is on par with the series, Kucherov’s play of power was a primary cause of the score. He had a goal and assists for three points, two of which came with the Tampa Bay side, helping Lightning’s 3 for 7, which was more in line with his 40 percent success rate in the last 10 games of the season.
Early on I thought that Kucherov was reluctant to shoot the disc, but as soon as he started shooting, everything opened up before him. Those touches aren’t perfect (especially the first), but just look at the different choices he makes, and what PK forces him to contend with.
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Everything Tampa wants to do in a power game goes through it (which makes shooters like Stephen Stampus even more dangerous), and so the Leafs have to figure out what to do about Kucherov after Lightning is set up. The Leafs PK was so effective in Game 1 that it never allowed the Tampas to get to that point of their power play.
This will continue to be a big part of Toronto’s fight plan – making breakouts and area entries difficult – but once they are in the area I think their best bet is not to overcommit to shooting, and when he goes to Kucherov, look for the other attackers in Tampa . I said he has a good timer, but he’s not Alex Ovechkin. If Kucherov kills The Leafs from there over seven matches, the bulk of it will likely come from sliding into Brayden Point, or across Steven Stamkos, not smashing a bunch of bombs. Let Jack Campbell know he’s committed to shooting Kucherov, and trust the Leafs’ PK to find the other bodies available.
11 more ideas…
Toronto puts Tampa in the PP 12 times in two games
The easiest thing to do to help kill is, you know, not have a procession in the box. In the regular season, the Leafs were 17 years oldy In penalty shootouts, an average of 3.5 times per game. Almost twice that for a Lightning skill isn’t great.
On the flip side, Lightning has been the second most sanctioned team in the NHL this season, so this should catch the Leafs’ attention:
Toronto goes 0 for 4 in the power game after going 1 for 6 in game 1. They are now 1 for 10 in total, 0 for 9 on 5 on 4
The Leafs’ strong performance in their last 10 games was around 14.4 percent, a sharp drop for the finishing team. first The NHL has a playing rate of 27.3 per season. They created TON on their strong plays in the first part of the game, and so a wise and thoughtful knower will tell you: the disc is going to come in at some point. They make good shots from good areas and the goalkeeper of the other team made good goalkeepers, so be patient.
But at some point a couple needs to get in, right? The Leafs have had plenty of “numbers say the disc should have gone in more” moments in their recent past.
Speaking of “goalkeeper”…
The top three Lightning players were incredible
Andrei Vasilevskiy may have scored three times, but he was unreal in the first and in PK, including Timothy Liljegren’s desperate hockey-style glove robbery. Throwing in one goal and three assists for four, Victor Hedman was fantastic all around moving the disc up and out of the Tampa end. You already mentioned Kucherov’s show, and this is where the difference is. Those three in Tampa were in control of a lot of the game. For paper, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner did well, and William Nylander played well, but there’s more to offer there.
Summon John Tavares
It wasn’t impressive, and they could definitely use it to be.
Not everyone in Tampa Bay was great either, even among their top players.
At equal strength, the Palat-Kucherov-Stamkos line was stuffed into a cabinet
In an eight-minute 5-on-5 ice heavy against Matthews’ streak, this Lightning trio had a run of five shooting attempts for, and 11 against, but most importantly, they had a projected goal percentage of 11.5 percent. Matthews’ group checked out the hack in Game 2, which resulted in plenty of time as the Bolts’ best offensive line was left to stand around playing D in the not-so-fun half of the rink for them.
About that top line…
Game 2 was a reminder of why Michael Bunting is so important to the top line
Not that I thought Bunting was good, in fact, I hardly noticed it. But he’s able to finish the sequence perfectly embodying the best of that group — Matthews uses his body for a takeaway and overshadows Marner, who does a great setup — and that line just needs a guy who can transform there. I’m expecting better from #58 overall, but his goal proved his worth even in a great show.
Isn’t it huh? Lightning’s annoying fourth streak, although they barely played.
pat Maron / Pierre Edouard Bellmar / Corey Berry
Combined to score three penalties (one from Perry and two from Bellmar), they scored once, and the shot attempts were 7-2 for Tampa Bay when they were on the ice. Perry also signed Campbell, and I’m sure he delighted him. It was a very relevant group given that Marron’s total time on the ice was 5:30, Perry was over 11 minutes, and Bellemare was in the middle.
Somehow they find a way to contribute positively while playing hardly:
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Not the same effect? Fourth line of papers
The Leafs’ streaks were in absolute mixer for most of the night, in part because the fourth streak they started with – Kase/Blackwell/Simmonds – was a statistically distasteful thing, with the numbers you see below representing ice time, then shot attempts while on the ice, shooting attempts Fire them on the ice, as a percentage:
So that wasn’t cool. But the weird thing about the numbers is that I didn’t hate Kase or Blackwell. I thought they both play really well (and quite physically). At 5:25 off the ice, the Simmonds managed to take two bad penalties, including one that gave a notorious cheap entertainer (Cory Perry) a chance to fall on his goalkeeper. The second came after Campbell stopped Kucherov when he split on goal to keep it 4-1 with 15 minutes of play, which ended the game when Tampa added another. There’s no way Simmonds plays in Game 3 where Jason Spezza (and Kyle Clifford) is sitting outside trying to get in. I love Simmonds and will be back. The rest will only help him.
Another man’s numbers are short selling?
Jack Campbell was good
Despite conceding five, and not loving Hedman’s goal with a second left in the first, Campbell made plenty of important saves to keep the Leafs relevant of late. I thought he stopped at least six times he wouldn’t have done when he was struggling mid-season, and gave the foliage a chance.
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In defense, one Leafs defender stood out:
Ilya Lyubushkin did not look fun to play against
I loved the game Ilya Lyubushkin. If he were to play this way, the Leafs wouldn’t be able to get him out of the squad. He was very physical, fighting every inch, never holding back, and it was miserable to play against him. By the end of Game Two, Alex Killorn would probably have gotten a road rash tattooed on his rib cage rather than having to play another bout after Leopushkin’s massive D-man hit him multiple times. Riley was also on the ice in a hurry, which he’s obviously relieved to know because Lyubushkin certainly wouldn’t do the same on the other side.
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Too big takeaway after two games?
The Leafs should be satisfied with how they stack up so far
If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs, the home split isn’t a win, but it’s not a huge loss either, and the path to play should be encouraging. I thought they were able to do the things they would need to do to succeed, like get a hard check, and even play hard from Matthews’ streak. The Leafs D aren’t fast, but in 5-on-5 the Lightning forwards don’t seem to be too much forward for them. Hey, they made it to Vasilevskiy.
It’s reasonable to call the Leafs the underdog now, with a maximum of five games remaining in the series, three of which could be in Florida. But it’s not like they’ve been hanging around just yet, worried about the game getting away from them. Special teams determine the score in the second match. If the Leafs can play with the same tenacity and energy that they have at 120 minutes, where they were the marginally better team, they are on their way to pushing the defending champions to their limits. That’s all you can do, and see if that bunch will just bend, or eventually break.