Here we are again. Round 2 of the saga of the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We saw these two teams battle it out in one of the better first-round series in recent memory. The Maple Leafs were unable to get over the hump, losing 2-1 in Game 7, their sixth straight exit in the first round of the playoffs. Will this season be any different? Or will the Lightning go on another run?
The Maple Leafs finish the season in second place in the Atlantic Division and with fewer points than last season. That’s mostly because of the Boston Bruins. This Maple Leafs team is built to last in the postseason with a deep and experienced forward group. Toronto boasts one of the top power-play units in the NHL and has gotten mostly good goaltending from Ilya Samsonov in his first year with the team. The pressure is on Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares to get this group to the second round.
The Lightning are still a potent offensive team, also boasting a top power-play unit. Defensive woes are the reason the Bolts don’t have home-ice advantage again in the postseason. That hasn’t been an issue in the past, however. But goaltending and physical play have helped compensate. That may not be the case this time around. Andrei Vasilevskiy is in a down year by his standards, not leading the NHL in wins while posting around a career-worst 2.63 GAA. The Bolts are very top-heavy with Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. Victor Hedman is also showing signs of fatigue late in his career. The Lightning are going to almost always be positioned to compete for a playoff spot. Will we start seeing a decline past that point? It’s possible.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Maple Leafs as favorites to win the series at -145 while the Lightning are +125.
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning schedule
Game 1: TBD
Game 2: TBD
Game 3: TBD
Game 4: TBD
Game 5: TBD
Game 6: TBD
Game 7: TBD