Horrible Opening Period vs Tampa Leads To Lightning Win

Game 71 clarkson fight
Reimer was soft in the first period

Stamkos had a hat trick

Ranger got badly injured

BY: Jeff Schneberk

Last night’s Leafs game had the potential to be one of the worst games of the season, for some of the usual reasons, plus a couple brand new reasons.
James Reimer who has taken more heat from his head coach this season than a Canadian vacationer in Miami, Florida, didn’t have the greatest game last night.

I think that was the first of the worst things that happened to the Leafs last night.

With yet another loss for Reimer, this time, a 5-3 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning, this one just got plain freaky late in the first period. The Lightning had opened up a 4-2 lead, three of those goals were scored in the game’s opening 20 minutes, there was an eerie feeling inside the Air Canada Centre that even I had never ever seen before, or even bothered to notice.
It was because of Reimer but not necessarily completely his fault. Everybody in the building knows that something is wrong here.
As I said this was one of the most important games for both the team and Reimer, and unfortunately neither of them bothered to show up for most of it. Tampa beat him five times, and of course triggered the ‘bring Bernier back’ hashtag on Twitter.
But the worst part of that opening period last night was listening to the TSN announcing crew debate over whether or not this could actually be Reimer’s last season with the team.

Something happened during a game against Montreal back in late October or early November when Carlyle pulled Reimer during a game in Montreal. Reimer was not happy, apparently Carlyle wasn’t either. Fast forward to Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss in Detroit. Carlyle told the press that he thought Reimer played “ok”, and didn’t utter another word.

After last night’s game, the response in regards to Reimer’s play was “just like the rest of the team’s,” before adding “I get in trouble with you guys when I comment on the goalies.”
Following last night’s loss to Tampa (Steven Stamkos scoring a hat trick most certainly did not help that uneasy feeling most of us Leaf fans felt last night through part of the first period and most of the rest of the game, too. Could Reimer really be done in Toronto?

I hope not but who knows for sure?
Randy Carlyle is one of those no-nonsense head coaches. And Reimer hasn’t exactly been on top of his game lately. I still think the only thing to do is wait until the playoffs come along then see what happens. There are a number of scenarios as to what could go down and any one of them could tell exactly what is going on with this hockey team, a team that is basically a mess at the worst of times.

Last night vs Tampa, Phil Kessel scored his 35th of the season so that is definitely a highlight, Jake Gardiner continues to make all opponents look like rookies, and David Clarkson (yes, David Clarkson) pounded BJ Crombeen into the ground, so that was good for motivational purposes, although I don’t think it actually did, so maybe it didn’t?!?!

But the absolute worst part of last night’s game which escaped my mind until just this very second was the bodycheck thrown at defenceman Paul Ranger by Tampa forward Alex Killorn.
Now Ranger has been a whipping boy for this entire season, most Leaf fans hate him, hate the way he plays, and criticize Leaf management for paying him a million dollars (or something like that) to play here and turn the puck over like a pancake. Then, he was just starting to find his stride then next thing you know he is being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher in front of a very worried, scared and nervous LeafNation.

I have never seen so many Leaf players all standing around in a circle over an injured teammate. It was touching. Word broke later in the night that he was receptive and alert. That was obviously good news. The NHL club announced this morning (Thursday) that he has been released from the hospital although no mention has been made of when he might play again. Killorn’s hit was made basically head first into the boards, and there was very little if any movement by Ranger as he was being wheeled off the ice. He moved his eyelids, that’s about it.

If it was hard for this Maple Leafs team to get their heads into this game before Ranger was taken out, then it was near impossible to get into it after the scary play.
The hit also came in that disastrous first period, as if shaky goaltending and team confidence wasn’t already at a low, the hit sure added to that list of concerns.

To this team’s credit however, and we haven’t said that a whole lot this year, a lot of times when this team comes out flat, they stay flat, well last night they weren’t completely out of the mess.

Although Stamkos completed his natural hat trick, a beauty Gardiner goal got the home side right back in it, bringing them to within a goal at 4-3. However Tyler Johnson caught some of the Leaf defence sleeping, despite a questionable non-call for interference on Tampa Bay on that same play, the goal put them up 5-3 and that’s how it ended.
Nikolai Kulemin scored the other Leaf goal when he tied the game up at 1-1 in that brutal first period.

Saturday night brings with it one of the greatest rivalries in the history of professional sports: the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens.
“Refocus for the biggest game of the year on Saturday night,” says winger Joffrey Lupul.

I do hope that they are able to do that.



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