By: Paul Connor, SportsGrid
The 2022 NHL Playoffs features three teams north of the border, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers all vying for the Lord Stanley Cup. With the first round in full swing, let’s see where the three clubs are in their respective series.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs (series tied 2-2)
Two games to one heading into Game 4, the Maple Leafs had a golden opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead in their opening round game against defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The result? One of the least inspired performances in the franchise’s recent playoff history. Attacked from the first draw, Toronto found themselves trailing 5-0 after two periods, finally losing by a final score of 7-3.
In retrospect, the result shouldn’t be too surprising. Since 2017, the Maple Leafs are 1-8 in playoff games in which they have had a lead in their respective series (including Sunday’s loss). Although Toronto managed to carve out a place on the road, which was repeatedly stressed by the team after the game, if the Blue and Whites were to lose this series, they would probably consider the lackluster Game 4 effort as a major reason why .
As the stage shifts to Toronto for tonight’s Game 5, all eyes will be on Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell. Campbell was in net for five of Tampa’s seven goals, stopping just 11 of 16 shots before being called out. It was a series of ups and downs for the 30-year-old, who was brilliant in Games 1 and 3, only to allow five goals in each of the following matches. Toronto will need Campbell to be at their absolute best if they hope to avoid a 3-2 loss.
Dallas Stars vs. Calgary Flames (series tied 2-2)
The favorite Flames earned a well-deserved 4-1 victory in Game 4, as Calgary surprisingly had their hands full with the defensive-minded Stars. In a series dominated by elite goaltenders, the top-flight Flames finally managed to generate some momentum offensively, highlighted by Johnny Gaudreau’s second-period shots on goal scorer – part of 53 shots shot at Dallas’ Jake Oettinger. Darryl Sutter’s side are clearly the most talented team, but as long as Oettinger continues to perform at an otherworldly level, the Flames could find themselves going the distance.
Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers (series tied 2-2)
After beating the Kings 14-2 in Games 2 and 3, it looked like the Oilers were going to run away with this series. It wasn’t meant to be, however, as Edmonton were shut out by LA 4-0 in Game 4 on Sunday. The Kings can credit goaltender Jonathan Quick, who rebounded from two tough outings to stop all 31 shots he faced in the victory.
While the Oilers generated plenty of scoring opportunities, they once again struggled defensively, as the Kings managed to muster over 40 shots against starting goaltender Mike Smith for the second straight game. Smith stood on his head, making 42 saves, and was the main reason this game wasn’t even more lopsided. A question mark ahead of the playoffs, the 40-year-old has been spectacular so far. Following his major gaffe in Game 1, Smith has stopped 115 of LA’s last 121 shots – good for a .950 SV%. Conor McDavid and company should find more offense in Game 5, but they’ll surely have to tighten things up defensively and rely on their veteran keeper much less, especially on nights when they struggle to find the back of the net.
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