The Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs will face each other in the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning with Game 1 on Tuesday night in Toronto. The Panthers pulled off arguably the biggest upset in postseason history, defeating the top-seeded Bruins in seven games in the first round. The Maple Leafs exorcised the demons and got to the second round for the first time since 2004, knocking off the Lightning in six games. Here we’ll go over predictions for the second round between the Panthers and Maple Leafs.
2023 NHL Playoffs: Panthers vs. Maple Leafs prediction
This likely isn’t the matchup the Maple Leafs thought they’d be in. Toronto was likely preparing for Boston. But Florida pulled off the upset and is still a very tough opponent. Remember, this Panthers team won the Presidents’ Trophy last season with mostly the same roster; replace Jonathan Huberdeau, Claude Giroux and Mackenzie Weegar with Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett and Marc Staal. So this is a Panthers team that the Leafs can underestimate.
Toronto has the edge at forward and that will be what this series comes down to. The Maple Leafs core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares and Ryan O’Reilly is incredibly tough to deal with over the entirety of a series. That group accounted for 15 of 23 goals in the first round. The Leafs have a lethal power play and that could be key in this series.
This series should be an absolute track meet. Neither team is very good defensively or in net. Ilya Samsonov struggled at times against Tampa Bay. Alex Lyon started the series vs. Boston for the Panthers before giving way to veteran Sergei Bobrovsky. Really, offense got both teams into the second round.
The big issue for Florida is the penalty kill, which was very bad against the Bruins. Toronto’s power play is more dangerous than the Bruins, so this is a nightmare matchup. If the Panthers can’t stay out of the box, this series could be quick. The Leafs also weren’t as good as they could be on the kill against Tampa Bay. It could come down to which goaltender can step up and make timely saves or which power play can take advantage.
I don’t think the Panthers will be able to keep up with Toronto. Plus, the Maple Leafs should tighten some things up from the first round. Toronto played from behind a lot and that can’t be the case for another series. Three of four wins against the Lightning were one-goal games, three in overtime, so that series could have gone either way. The Panthers are riding high after beating Boston but also had two wins in OT and gave up a lot of goals. I also trust more in Sheldon Keefe as opposed to Paul Maurice behind the bench.
Prediction: Maple Leafs in 6