Sports

SIMMONS: Maple Leafs have to be the extra determined group in Game 7


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TAMPA — Additional time objectives are hardly ever acts of magnificence.

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They’re typically pictures of desperation, pucks banged at, not aimed, with our bodies piled up across the web.

That form of determined play is why the Tampa Bay Lightning gained Game 6 in extra time. It might be the actual distinction between the Maple Leafs and the Stanley Cup-champion Lightning by means of six video games of a extremely aggressive back-and-forth first-round playoff collection.

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The Leafs might have dominated extra time up till the purpose of Brayden Level’s bang-bang profitable objective.

Simply as they dominated extra time in Game 6 a 12 months in the past towards a lesser group from Montreal, then turned the puck over as soon as and misplaced the sport and, finally, the collection.

With all of their goal-scoring talent, what the Leafs can lack at massive moments is the form of desperation the Lightning has proven on this collection and within the earlier two playoff runs as champions of the Nationwide Hockey League. It might sound cliche, however it isn’t. It’s the distinction between profitable a collection and dropping it. There may be nowhere to mark ‘desperation’ on the sport sheet, however you may see it and coach Jon Cooper calls for it from his gamers — pucks to the web, go to the web.

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It really works.

If Nikita Kucherov or Victor Hedman are making passes that defy science, so most of the Tampa Bay objectives come the way in which Level’s did in extra time, the way in which Anthony Cirelli did a spin-a-rama shot within the second interval to offer the Lightning a 2-0 lead whereas scoring shorthanded.

These weren’t Mitch Marner precisely banking a puck off Andrei Vasilevskiy’s stick, enabling Auston Matthews to attain the profitable objective in Game 5. That’s artwork. That’s highlight-reel stuff. That’s the form of objective that had legendary coach Scotty Bowman speaking about it two days after it occurred.

Marner had every kind of time with the puck within the third interval and extra time of Game 6. Matthews was having one other nice recreation. Marner wasn’t matching his centreman’s stage, perhaps due to the period of time he had spent between common shifts and penalty-killing.

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In extra time, Marner had three or 4 alternatives to shoot the puck — which was his coming-out celebration of types within the common season — however as a substitute of being determined, he was making an attempt to be artistic and wound up overhandling the puck.

And it’s a high-quality line, actually, between what works, when it really works and, generally, the way it works for gamers.

The Leafs have artists in Marner and William Nylander, who was in on a 2-on-1 early in Game 6, then a 3-on-2 and had different alternatives off the frenzy, although he appeared to tire because the night time went on. The two-on-1 didn’t register a shot on objective. Neither did the 3-on-2. Nylander, in all probability the second-best shooter on the Leafs, overthought the sport as a substitute of pulling a Cirelli or a Brandon Hagel on the extra time rush and simply letting it fly.

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At even energy within the collection, the Leafs expert gamers have outperformed the Lightning’s expert gamers and that’s no small activity. Kucherov, who hardly appears to be skating arduous, creates most of his most interesting offence on the ability play, or so it definitely appears.

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Who has come by means of for the Lightning when wanted exterior of its energy play? Cirelli and Level — each of whom had been anticipated to be on Crew Canada had there been a Crew Canada on the Olympic Games — Ondrej Palat, Ross Colton, Nick Paul  and Alex Killorn,

The 2 objectives captain John Tavares scored within the remaining minute of the second interval on Thursday night time had been the identical form of emotional performs that Tampa produced to win in extra time. That Toronto wants extra of. They weren’t performs made off the frenzy, essentially. There was a puck thrown to the web, a Tavares shot and a swipe on the puck by Jason Spezza, who missed however distracted Vasilevskiy. That was one objective. The second was a bang-bang play that noticed Tavares within the slot with Vasilevskiy down and he discovered the highest of the web to place the Leafs forward 3-2.

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After the loss in Game 6, the Leafs had so many causes to be ok with the way in which they performed. That they had Tampa’s massive defence backing up. At occasions, the Lightning was chasing the sport. The Leafs had room, which is typically lacking at playoff time.

And one scout took discover after the sport that two objectives went by means of the legs of Campbell, one other went off his proper pad. He didn’t assume any of these three pictures had been inconceivable to cease — however he did level out that the distinction between the scores is that they got here off determined performs, fast pictures, pucks on the web, and every time the shooter adopted his shot to the objective.

Saturday Evening is Game 7 night time in Canada. However it is a totally different Game 7 than Leafs have been in earlier than. It is a totally different collection. They had been studying after they performed Boston in 2018, after they performed Washington in 2017, and able to beat the Bruins in 2019. That didn’t occur. They then had been overwhelmed by themselves towards Columbus and Montreal, a fifth recreation towards the Blue Jackets, and a slightly flat seventh recreation towards the Canadiens.

Now it’s the champions. The Leafs can beat them. They’re not out of their league right here. However they should play with the form of desperation that was lacking in extra time of Game 6. The sort that purchased Tavares two objectives and nearly gained them the sport and the collection.

ssimmons@postmedia.com
twitter.com/simmonssteve

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