Does Sheldon Keefe see it?
He should. Each fan in attendance for the Maple Leafs-Lightning sequence has. The TV viewers and panelists have. The pundits have.
Justin Holl is getting roasted like a campfire marshmallow within the first spherical of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The newest in an extended succession of scapegoat Leaf blueliners is placing the likes of Aki Berg and Jake Gardiner to disgrace. With Holl on the ice within the first 5 video games of the sequence, the Lightning have outscored the Leafs 14-2. With Holl off the ice, the rating is 18-4 Toronto. In fact, Holl’s presence on the penalty kill and absence on the ability play skew the numbers, however even at 5-on-5, the rating is 9-2 Tampa with Holl on the ice. The Lightning will get 81.82 p.c of complete targets scored when No. 3 is on the market.
Requested about it after the Leafs’ deflating Sport 5 residence defeat, by which they misplaced their eleventh straight playoff recreation by which they may eradicate their opponent, Keefe identified that Holl is “not alone” on the ice. It’s true that Holl’s associate, Mark Giordano, has struggled at instances within the sequence too; the Bolts maintain an 8-3 edge at 5-on-5 with him on the market. However any coach refusing to acknowledge Holl’s disastrous sequence is both deploying blind loyalty towards his troops or simply, uh, blind.
The Leafs are actually 12 video games right into a two-year playoff battle in opposition to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and I’ve to surprise simply how a lot Keefe sees, and the way succesful he’s at making changes for his workforce. As a result of his counterpart, Jon Cooper, is about nearly as good as anybody at doing so.
Take the 2022 sequence. The Leafs had the NHL’s No. 1 energy play within the common season, and the Bolts discovered a option to bottle it up, holding it to a 14.3 p.c effectivity. The Leafs didn’t rating a power-play aim in Sport 6 or 7. Within the deciding recreation, Tampa doubled up on them in pictures blocked in addition. Because the sequence modified and the Lightning fell behind, they discovered a option to restrict Toronto’s strengths and turned the tide of the sequence.
This 12 months? Cooper and the Bolts placed on a training clinic in Sport 5. Keep in mind all of the discuss in regards to the blocker-side weak point and screened level pictures beating Vasilevskiy? In his post-game presser, Cooper wryly alluded to the criticism, stating that ‘Vasy’ proved everybody flawed, however look nearer at this outstanding shot chart circulated by my colleague Mike McKenna on Twitter. Tampa just about prevented Toronto from getting any appears to be like in Vasilevskiy’s hazard zone in Sport 5. They pressured the Leafs to change their technique of assault.