Tampa, Florida – Captain of Lightning Stephen Stamkos His team finally broke through.
The Maple Leafs are still waiting for their leader to do the same.
John Tavares He has yet to score a point at 5-on-5 in the first-round playoff series for Toronto with Tampa Bay, who sit 2-2 after Sunday’s 7-3 loss at the hands of two-time Stanley Cup champions at Amalie. Arena.
That doesn’t include last spring’s opener against the Montreal Canadiens when he suffered a devastating injury after a fearsome collision that ruled him out for the remainder of the Original Six game, the 31-year-old has scored one goal in his last seven post-season games.
Tavares, with three more seasons remaining on a contract that carries a $11 million salary cap, has two assists against Lightning – one in the power game and one with teams playing 4-on-4 when Sunday’s game was out of competition access – through four matches.
“I wasn’t able to produce as offensively as I wanted,” he said in the aftermath of that ugly defeat. “I still want to create more.”
The center did its job on the showdown circuit—it won 10 of 11 draws on Sunday—and was a Tampa-area contributor once the Toronto tournament started.
But the regular season problem persisted in the playoffs after Tavares finished sixth in the Leafs with 39 equal power points (15 goals, 24 assists) in 2021-22.
Stamkos, who played junior hockey with his 91st as a kid, scored his first goal in this playoff a minute later on Sunday to thrill his team.
and with Auston Matthews And Mitch Marner choked at 5-on-5 in games 3 and 4 when Tampa underwent the last change and could have thrown it Anthony Cirelliline and Victor Hedman In the back end against Toronto’s offensive stimuli, the Leafs captain’s inability to impose his will was amplified.
“He’s working, he’s trying,” said coach Sheldon Keefe. “It’s a tough streak there.”
This is for sure. It was also one without a lot of momentum from game to game.
Teams trade wins, with the team that scores the first goal building a lead of at least three goals on its way to winning.
Toronto, hosting their fifth best of seven group game on Tuesday, have dealt with adversity as they have been challenged over and over again this season, but ghosts of recent playoff failure still hang over a club that hasn’t progressed to the second round since 2004. .
“We only believe in our team,” Keefe said when asked why he was confident the Leafs would fall back. “We believe in our team in every series, all season. We played really well against (Tampa). We responded the last time we came out losing. That’s the kind of series it was.”
“We’re going home. We know we have to be better, and we will be.”
Tavares is also confident that the Leafs will be back on the right track.
“Just get to know the way we’ve played in so many tournaments throughout this series, even parts of (Game 4), and certainly mostly in the games we’ve won,” he said. “An opportunity to regroup.”
The No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, who signed with his hometown club to free agency in July 2018, said Toronto wasn’t ready for Tampa’s early in-game rush.
“They were very aggressive and pushed really hard early on,” Tavares said. “Our level of execution and detail has to be strong during that to break through that pressure. That really allows us to go ahead with our game and have them chase it.
“We have to do a better job.”
Another area of concern is the number of penalties Toronto continues to take — not so many scratches after the whistle that Keefe had predicted before the series, but rather stick and fouling errors.
The Leafs were reported for 32 offenses in the top league playoffs as of Sunday night, four times more than the Lightning.
“It Was Too Tight,” Toronto Defenders Jake Muzin He said about the standard of judgment compared to subsequent seasons. “We should know that now.”
They also didn’t get enough of Tavares, who was far from the only culprit in Sunday’s embarrassing no-show, as the scene once again shifts to the Scotiabank Arena.
“I would like to find more and produce more,” he said. “There is no doubt that I expect more and want to become better.”
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on May 9, 2022.
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