Sheet notes: lesson time is over


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TAMPA – A tough outing.

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That’s how many hockey pundits from Stockholm to Seattle predicted the Maple Leafs before the playoffs began. If they couldn’t beat defending champion Tampa and lost their sixth straight opener, it surely wouldn’t be for lack of trying, not being engaged and they’d fall swinging, literally and figuratively.

What made Sunday’s first-period Mother’s Day massacre so shocking and disturbing. In less than eight minutes, a looking unprepared team undermined a week of mostly solid effort that included a Game 1 shutout and a Game 3 win in the Lightning’s backyard.

At 5:25 of the second period, an overwhelmed Jack Campbell gave up five of 16 shots in the shadow of Tampa’s three Stanley Cup banners in Amalie’s rafters.

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For a team whose home arena repeatedly screams “everyday I’m hustling” musical messages, “let’s get serious” and who have spent a year preparing to take another chance in the playoffs, an early no-show reminiscent of a mid-week winter game is inexcusable.

Coach Sheldon Keefe was also battered, insisting on Sunday morning he would get a lot more from his side, but he made the curious decision to leave sixth defender Justin Holl, who was guilty of Steven Stamkos’ opening goal. Keefe tried to turn the disappointment into the moral victory of a split in Tampa, but when an opponent is off balance, don’t give them anything to get them back in the fight.

Since 2018, the Leafs have had a maddening mantra after these playoff pooches that usually begins, “we’re going to learn from this.”
Many Leafs were succinct before the series that Tampa pretty much settled their playoff pattern, while they’re still working their way through that end of things.

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Being a badass is part of it.

Counting the last two regular season meetings, the Leafs and Lightning have seen their last six games end lopsided or high. Post-season goals are plentiful in the league as the first-round series passes halfway.

“That’s the great thing about the playoffs,” Stamkos said after Sunday. “You never know what you’re going to get each night. But we have to find a way to reverse this trend in Toronto.

“The first goal has been important in this series so far. We got off to a great start. One of our keys was to come out on the right foot and we were rewarded.

“We wanted to replicate that third period (because they made Game 3 a respectable 5-3 result). We watched a video and the guys took it to heart.

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Locker room access is an essential part of the media role, registered and negotiated with both the NHL and the players’ association, important for transparency, accuracy and accountability to all.

It was limited to two years and counted by COVID-19, during which teams influenced which players spoke and for how long, usually through Zoom with a mute button that could control who could ask questions. . Reporters — and many fans — have been asking when arenas will reopen and while that push is underway in professional sports, commissioner Gary Bettman says he’s still waiting for the go-ahead from NHL medical advisers.

“COVID was not our excuse to get you out of the locker room,” Bettman assured members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association in Tampa during a pre-Game 1 availability. “We did what we had to do to ensure the player safety.

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“I was at a press conference in Florida for the retirement of Roberto Luongo (early March 2020) and we had just announced (the closing of the room).

“Someone said, ‘Why don’t you just admit you issued the orders as an excuse, and we’ll never go back?’ I said, ‘you don’t understand the magnitude of what’s going on’.

“We’ll bring you back when it’s safe. We want to finish the season, finish the playoffs and hopefully get back to normal next season.

The NHL award finalists are revealed this week, a reminder of what the Leafs face in this series. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is in the running for the Norris Trophy for a sixth straight season, joining Nashville’s Roman Josi and Colorado’s Cale Makar.

On Tuesday, there is a good chance that Andrei Vasilevskiy will be part of the trio of Vézina finalists. Later in the week, Toronto’s Michael Bunting will find out if he’s in the mix for Rookie of the Year, while Auston Matthews is expected to be in the top three for the Hart as MVP.

Hedman becomes Norris’ first defenseman with six consecutive nominations since Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings.
Winners will be announced at the Stanley Cup Finals.

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