It wouldn’t be a first-round series involving the Toronto Maple Leafs without some drama right out of the gate.
In the opening period of Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, the team was clearly pumped for the opportunity to show some physicality. So much so that fourth-liner Kyle Clifford threw a dangerous and unnecessary hit on Lightning winger Ross Colton.
The duality of Kyle Clifford
one was good, the other was not good pic.twitter.com/4SGxaihJmz
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 2, 2022
After some conversation among league officials, Clifford was punished with a five-minute major boarding penalty and a game misconduct, leaving his total playing time for the first game of this much-anticipated series at 49 seconds.
I mean that's just an insane decision from Clifford pic.twitter.com/HxrI8s1E82
— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) May 2, 2022
Luckily for every nervous Leafs fan, the team was able to get all the jitters out and kill off the entire five minutes without allowing a Lightning goal en route to a 5-0 victory.
This might have been the plan all along, even though Clifford crossed the line. On Sunday, Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe set the tone and said he was preparing for a series full of physicality and even violence.
"They are a team that is going to be very physical and competitive," the Leafs coach said. "When I look at their playoffs — especially in the first round last year — they definitely led the league in skirmishes after the whistle. I expect it to be a very physical, borderline violent series in a lot of ways. Our guys will be ready for that."
That’s foreshadowing if I’ve ever seen it but Keefe was not pleased with Clifford's decision.
"Cliff's hit is not a hit you can make there," Keefe said after the game.
At the time of writing, there has not been any word whether the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will have a further hearing with Clifford about the hit. We have certainly seen suspensions in the playoffs for less.
Luckily for Keefe, he has a direct replacement for Clifford in case of any suspension. Veteran forward Jason Spezza was a healthy scratch for Game 1.
More from Yahoo Sports