The Leafs may have just gained an edge on the Lightning in Round 1, thanks to the Rangers

Mike Armenti
April 6, 2023  (10:00)

Last spring, we saw the Leafs fall in a very tightly-contested 7-game series to the same Tampa Bay Lightning team that they'll face off again in the postseason in just a couple of weeks' time. I say the same in that most of their core remains intact, but in fact, the Bolts did suffer a couple of significant losses in Ryan McDonagh and Ondrej Palat.

Last year's series was so tight in games 5, 6 and 7 that really anything could have swung the momentum on any given night. Game 5 ended in a 4-3 Leafs victory in regulation. Game 6 was a 4-3 OT win for Tampa and, well, we all know how Game 7 ended, 2-1 for the Bolts in regulation with John Tavares' game-tying goal disallowed and Justin Holl assessed a 2-minute minor penalty for interference on the heels of a "pick", which is seldom called in the regular season, nevermind in a tightly contested Game 7.
Hopefully the Leafs were scouting the Bolts last night in New York, as Tampa netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy may have provided the Leafs with an interesting advantage - if he wasn't just having an off-night. Vasilevskiy gave up 3 consecutive 1st period goals on his blocker side, including this one.
Could it be that it was just a coincidence that all 3 had beaten Vasilevskiy on his blocker side? Maybe, but the Rangers scored 3 more goals in this one, toppling the Bolts by a score of 6-3, and 2 of the Rangers' final 3 goals also beat Vasilevskiy on the blocker side, totaling 5 goals in one game. The only glove side goal that came against Vasilevskiy last night was on a Tyler Motte breakaway.
If the Leafs were watching this one intently, I'd imagine that testing Vasilevskiy's blocker side early and often would be a sound strategy. As one of the best goalies on the planet, there aren't a whole lot of weaknesses in Vasilevskiy's game, but if his blocker side is being exposed immediately before the playoffs begin, that could be good news for the Leafs and bad news for the Bolts.
6 AVRIL   |   73 ANSWERS
The Leafs may have just gained an edge on the Lightning in Round 1, thanks to the Rangers

Do you think the Leafs will try to exploit a new-found weakness on Andrei Vasilevskiy's blocker side in the playoffs?

Absolutely, they should4663 %
No, he just had an off-game1216.4 %
The Leafs will win the series regardless1520.5 %
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