Michael Bunting is likely to return from his three-game suspension as the Maple Leafs try to close out the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road. Bunting will be under pressure from fans, Tampa Bay players and potentially the officials so it's crucial the 27-year-old, and his teammates, keep their discipline in Game 6.
- All right. Let's shift the focus and start talking about game 6. And there are key things that, like, need to happen, like, without a doubt. First, you have to score first.
You absolutely have to score first. I don't care how it is. I don't care if it's a highlight reel. I don't care if it's a tic-tac-toe play. I don't care if it's a one-timer, power play, shorthanded, whatever.
They need to score first. They can't allow Tampa to get into it. They can't allow their fans to get into it.
Their fans are gonna go crazy. Their fans are gonna go wild. And Tampa has every reason to start the game hot. Again, they've been the better team the majority of the series.
But the Leafs, they cannot allow Tampa Bay to score first. It has to be them. They have to get on their heels-- or, no, not on their heels. They have to put Tampa on their heels as quickly as possible and take control of that game and hold on to that game.
Limit those mistakes. Do not make it easy for them. Make Tampa work for it. Make them work for those goals.
There's been way too many moments, especially in game 5, where the fourth line was hemming in the top line. Matthews, Marner, and [? Jarnkrok ?] were getting hemmed in. Heck, when [INAUDIBLE] went all-star mode and had a line of Nylander, Matthews, and Marner, that line was being hemmed in.
So, like, they need to outwork them. And it's funny because Noel Acciari said that ahead of game 5. They have to put on our work helmets or work boots or whatever and start to do those little things.
And everyone needs to do that en masse, every single person. It can't just be one person finishing their checks. Everyone has to be finishing their checks.
It can't be just be one person blocking shots. Everyone needs to be blocking shots. It can't be one person that's defensively responsible. Everyone needs to be defensively responsible because if one area breaks down, then the rest of the team crumbles. And we saw that in game 5. We saw how one little thing can snowball and end up being a huge problem.
And we can't give Tampa any inch to climb. So we got to outwork them. You got to outplay them. You got to outchance them. And that's your best chance-- that's your best chance of winning.
And this one is a little circumstantial, but I'm pretty sure it's going to happen, considering the fact that, like, I'm pretty sure one of Zach Aston-Reese or Sam Lafferty is probably gonna come out of the lineup, considering the fact that they both played, like, in the six-minute range.
Michael Bunting is going to draw in. The whole team needs to be disciplined, especially Bunting. They will come for him, and they will try to antagonize him, and the refs will be looking for it.
And I think that teams overall have tried to, like, cycle back. There wasn't many, like, postgoal-- postgoal or postwhistle scrums or anything. Even after the big hits, like, Jake McCabe had, like, three big hits in this game, and there weren't any, like, confetti gloves and fighting and all that type of stuff, because I don't think-- because either team didn't want to put the other team on the power play.
And the Leafs can't afford that. They cannot afford that. They have to be disciplined. They have to be smart.
I'm not saying don't hit-- don't hit and don't forecheck. No, do that, but do it smart. Michael Bunting, this could be your-- this could be the moment of redemption for Michael Bunting. There have been so many people who have been writing him off, especially the fact that the Leafs have won these three games without him in the lineup.
This could be a huge moment for him to draw back in, to play well, make the bottom six better, I don't know, or maybe re-establish the top six if he ends up being there, whatever. If he can do all of that while staying disciplined, that can be huge for the least. And that can right a wrong. They didn't win game 5. Maybe Michael Bunting helps them win game 6.