Expect some fluctuations in a playoff series, especially between two very good teams like the Lightning and Maple Leafs. No one expected a short streak, which means twists and turns as teams exchange wins. Momentum generally depends on your goalie’s level of performance the next night, but hockey things can stick a little more than, say, baseball, where the next starting pitcher dictates everything (or did before the reliever’s age). Teams find a weakness, a defender they want to get in the zone from, or a way to move the keeper more often or something. And that can still happen in this first-round series.
But for two teams that feel pretty evenly matched, the Leafs and Lightning didn’t just pull off wins. They brought blowouts together. In four games, they took turns ambushing each other. The Leafs opened the series with a 5-0 win. The Lightning took revenge in game 2 with 5:3, but in the meantime they were 5:0 in the lead. The Leafs flew to Tampa and won Game 3 5-2. And then the Lightning hit a touchdown with a PAT last night a 7-3 win. Rarely, if ever, do you see teams capable of stuffing the other in a trash can one night and then being completely destroyed the next, let alone twice for each.
The underlying numbers suggest the Lightning had the upper hand most of the time and had the advantage in shot attempts in all four games. But the expected goal percentage has changed on the team that won in the four games, suggesting the Leafs are level with the Lightning in chances. You just do it in any other game.
It’s too easy to argue that Jack Campbell isn’t good enough to win four out of seven games against the defending champions. And he was cut twice. But Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t himself either and was robbed twice. It could be that these offenses are just too high-octane to keep under wraps for more than one game at a time.
Fatigue could play a role. We do saw goals increase in the second half of the season and speculated that the fatigue of yet another COVID season with a busy schedule was wearing down the will to defend. Throw in the fact that the Lightning have played the maximum number of rounds in the last two years, and they just might not have the guts to pull it together for more than any other game. That won’t do them much good this series considering they only answered the Leafs to tie the series. At least one team has at least five power plays in every game, suggesting someone’s ass dragging every night.
The increased score could also be combined with the fatigue levels. It’s easier for teams this season to score two or three goals, which forces the opposition to open up, making it easier to take the lead. Second, fatigue would make it harder for teams to find the charge to defend against multiple goals.
It’s not just the leaves and lightning either:
While we’re certainly happy about the higher score, the league would probably prefer a few closer games. They’ll likely get them as the playoffs continue and teams step on their tongues even more than they already do.
Staying with the NHL playoffs, it’s rare that we’re all behind Brad Marchand. But in the “The Worst Person You Know Just Made a Big Point” category:
We don’t know for sure and Marchand isn’t saying so, but it looks like he’s going to call Carolina’s Tony DeAngelo a racist, what he happens to be. Also an idiot. Watch Marchand get penalized in the NHL for revealing that one of his players is a bridge troll because it can’t be revealed. The league doesn’t want to offend the fanbase it’s feared for decades.
We close with this artwork by Chelsea’s Sam Kerr, who gave Chelsea a 4-2 win over Man United, a win that gave Chelsea the WSL title:
Of course, that was only Kerr’s second thunderbolt of the day:
Not a bad day at work.