LGD – GAME 71: ROUND 1 PREVIEW?

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One of these Stevens is an athlete. The other is a blogger. CAN YOU GUESS WHO IS WHAT?

The bad news is that the Leafs are playing a divisional rival who’s close in the standings on the second half of a back-to-back. The good news is that that Leafs are finally back at the ACC for the first time since March 8th.

Awaiting them there is Steven Stamkos, ready to take on the Leafs for the first time as Tampa Bay Lightning captain.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • Steven Stamkos has four points in six games since returning from a broken leg (2G, 2A).
  • After losing the first three games of Stamkos’ return, the Lightning have now won three straight.
  • The Lightning’s overall record since Stamkos’ return: 3-1-2.
  • The Leafs’ loss to Detroit last night gave them just four of a possible ten points from their five-game road trip.
  • Leafs goals by defencemen over the past four games: Six. That’s good.
  • Leafs goals by forwards over the past four games: Three. That’s bad.
  • The Leafs defencemen have as many goals over the past six games as the forward do (8).

PLAYOFF WATCH

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The Leafs could be playing their first-round opponent tonight. They need to clinch a playoff spot first.

LINEUPS COURTESY OF DAILYFACEOFF.COM

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – Nikolai Kulemin

Mason Raymond – Peter Holland – David Clarkson

Troy Bodie – Jay McClement – Paul Ranger (7th D)

Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf

Cody Franson – Jake Gardiner

Morgan Rielly – Tim Gleason

Before yesterday’s game, it seemed like Nikolai Kulemin would be the third-line centre. The return of Peter Holland, and the complete and utter lack of offence from Clarkson, has Kulemin back on the second line alongside Lupul and Kadri. If the top line can’t score, these guys need to pick it up. Badly.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Alex Killorn – Steven Stamkos – Tyler Johnson

Ondrej Palat – Valteri Filppula – Ryan Callahan

J.T. Brown – Tom Pyatt – Teddy Purcell

Ryan Malone – Nate Thompson – B.J. Crombeen

Victor Hedman – Sami Salo

Matt Carle – Radko Gudas

Eric Brewer – Mike Kostka

Is Jon Cooper getting any Jack Adams buzz? He probably should, shouldn’t he? Outside of Stamkos, and previously Martin St. Louis, the Lightning don’t have many big names, do they? I know, I know – good goaltending makes any coach look like a genius. Last year Paul MacLean and the Ottawa Senators had a thin team on paper but great goaltending. This season the goaltending dropped and so has MacLean’s god-like status as a coach. Fair enough. The fact remains that after a hot start, Jon Coopers’ team lost one of the greatest players on planet earth and still stayed among the east’s best. He should be commended for that.

On the familiar face front – hey look it’s Mike Kostka! He actually hasn’t had a bad go in Tampa since being claimed off waivers from Chicago. Five points in eight games with the Bolts so far. He only had eight points in 35 games with the Leafs last season.

STARTING GOALIES

Last night Randy Carlyle said he thought Reimer played “Just OK.” James Reimer said he played well. Then Reimer’s agent tweeted something about his client getting blamed for a poor defensive performance and Twitter as we know it burned to ash

So what’s the update on that? Um, well, it’s not clear.

While it looks like Reimer is probably starting in back-to-back games, it’s not written in stone. Carlyle is usually pretty mum when it comes to naming his goalie on game day, sometimes even to the goalies themselves. Twitter should be another fun one tonight.

The Lightning are going with Ben Bishop who should probably be nominated for the Vezina Trophy. Sixth in games played (53), fourth in games started (53), fourth in wins (32), and tied for fourth in save percentage (.928). Tuukka Rask is the only goalie in the league with 30 or more starts and a higher save percentage than Bishop. Basically he’s a pretty darn good goalie.

Catch the game on TSN and RDS2 tonight at 7:00pm eastern. Hopefully this time the result won’t make me as angry.