It’s been a hectic few days around Leafs Nation. Jake Gardiner was booed…… and that’s it…. that’s all it took to send thousands upon thousands of people into a frenzy?
I hate to say this, because I’m not the booing type of fan, but I’m actually behind the fans on this one. For those that are pointing towards that one bad play and saying he doesn’t deserve it based on that one play, you’re right!!
This is Drew Doughty, one of the best dman in the league, Do you think he gets booed or gets traded for making the same mistake Jake Gardiner made? NO! All great players make the same mistakes. People need to take the good with the bad when it comes to Jake. He is a good dman pic.twitter.com/IYO8IexnBf
— Carlo Colaiacovo (@CarloColaiacovo) January 16, 2019
It’s really not about that one play though. It’s about a lot of things. This, in as much of a nutshell as I can put it, is why this has boiled over if you ask me…..
Step 1: Gardiner joins the Leafs and they’re bad, but he’s okay and he’s young, so Yay!!
Step 2: He plays and plays and people are confident he’ll learn the defensive side of the game but he never really improves in that area. He can still skate well and pass but defending is job #1 and it’s lacking.
Step 3: They are expected to be good (even when they really aren’t) and he faces criticism.
Step 4: They crap the bed and he’s part of it.
Step 5: Rebuild….. all is forgiven….. for now!!
Step 6: They’re expected to be good again (because now they are!!) and he is part of that as well.
Step 7: Game 7 mirrors many games we’ve seen before, but it happens at the worst time, and now the question of if he can really compete comes up. This time it’s not about competing in game #15 or #73 in the regular season, I mean REALLY COMPETE when it counts the most.
Step 8: Colorado game happens and, for many, the question in Step 7 is answered, and they have seen enough. The booing commences.
This isn’t about that one play. That was the smallest of straws that broke the elephants back. The Leafs are in a position to really make some noise this spring, I mean really do damage in the playoffs. People are simply asking if the man that they turn to in the defensive end when the going gets tough is up to the task, or if he’ll break under pressure? Remember, he played over 24 minutes in Game 7, and was dash five. The only Leaf player to play more was Ron Hainsey, with 24:19 TOI, with 3:41 TOI of that being on the penalty kill (they went 4-5 that game) and he was -1.
It’s a fair question, that of him breaking under the pressure, and the fans with long memories have the right to ask it, just like they have the right to boo if they want.
On to the game……
The Lightning are scary good. Their depth is simply unreal as they have 7 players with 20 points or more (with 3 more that missed time but are on pace for as many), 7 players with double digit goal totals, a very deep defensive unit, and a young all-star goaltender. On top of all that they have the NHLs leading point producer.
There are no holes in this lineup, and anything they add at the deadline will simply be adding to the embarrassment of riches they already possess.
The Lightning can keep pace with the Leafs and are literally the only team in the league that wouldn’t shy away from trading chances with them all night long. Maybe that’s because these two teams are actually built similarly at the forward position. Theres an emphasis on speed and skill, with only a handful of forwards over 200lbs between the two clubs. They can transition pucks well, and can attack in waves.
Simply put, all Tampa needs to do tonight to win is keep their foot on the gas. They’ve gone a whopping 19-2-1 over their past 22 games, and that included a 16 game point streak where they went 15-0-1. If you care to look at the much more recent, they’ve “stumbled” to a record of 4-2 over their past 6 games. Time for the Leafs to pounce?
Meanwhile, there couldn’t be a worse time for the Leafs to play this team. Their recent 6-3 loss to the Avalanche is only the tip of the iceberg. Since the start of December, and the return of William Nylander (not sure why I threw that in there), the Leafs have gone 2-7 against playoff teams. The fans are frustrated, and as outlined earlier, they are eager to show that frustration.
They’re 2-5 over their past 7 overall. The powerplay, which was meant to be the crown jewel of this team, has staggered of late, and their goals against average is on the rise. This has turned into more of a speed bump in the eyes of some fans. Simply put, to some, this is the team they expect to see in the playoffs and it’s clearly not good enough.
It’s tough to argue that when they’re rolling they can keep pace with the Lightning though….. nobody seems to be rolling anymore is the problem.
So, with nobody rolling the coach has decided to shake up the lines….. by reuniting some old lines.
Rare morning skate for Leafs coming off lacklustre effort
Same combos as yesterday's practice
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 17, 2019
And this is what they need to contend with:
#TBLightning morning skate line rushes
Joseph-Martel look to be scratches
Coburn looks to be taking his turn out in the rotation
— Lightning Insider (@Erik_Erlendsson) January 17, 2019
My prediction? Sorry, but I can’t say that I think the skid will end here, 5-2 Lightning. What’s yours?
GO LEAFS GO!!