LIGHTNING (4-1-0) vs. MAPLE LEAFS (1-1-3)
7:30 PM ET – SN1, TVAS, SUN, NHL.TV
The Toronto Maple Leafs are hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Air Canada Centre. Puck drops at 7:30 for an exciting battle between a potential division winner, and a Leafs team on the rise.
Many questions surround the Leafs heading into this game, including the overuse of veteran defensemen, the shaky goaltender play (Leafs have the 6th worst 5v5 team sv%), and the potential unsustainability of their offense (Leafs have the 5th highest 5v5 team shooting%). The Leafs come into this game after yet another blown lead to the Chicago Blackhaws. The Lightning, on the other hand, beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1 after suffering their first loss of the season to the Colorado Avalanche.
There’s no question Tampa Bay will be a goliath in the Atlantic Division this year, whereas the Leafs seem to be shaping up to be among a mix of mediocre teams outside of the two Florida teams. This will shape up to be a tough matchup for the Leafs, who look to get a lead and keep it for only the 2nd time this year.
Coming to Toronto for the first time this year will be the Maple Leafs’ offseason acquisition gone awry, Steven Stamkos, who has settled back into his return to the Tampa Bay Lightning nicely with 5 points in 5 games.
Tonight will also be the debut of the Leafs’ waiver claim (no, not Seth Griffith) ((no, also not Frank Corrado)), Ben Smith. We’ll look to see if Smith can capably fill the “niche” role that Babcock wanted him for.
In the vein of debuts, the Lightning debuted Brayden Point for his rookie season, a prospect I’ve been rooting for since his days with the Moose Jaw Warriors. He has two points this season, and has definitely been playing well with a CF% of 55.88%.
Tonight’s lines for the Maple Leafs:
And the lines for Tampa Bay will be:
KEYS TO THE GAME
Here are some keys for the Leafs:
- Pay close attention to the penalty differential – The Lightning have just an electric (get it?) powerplay as the Leafs do. Do what you can to minimize potentially costly penalties
- Create traffic – Ben Bishop, as we know, is huge. Get the puck moving around the zone and get shots on net, hoping that traffic can bury the rebounds
- Goaltending struggles – Get in the passing lanes and limit the cross-ice movement Andersen has to make. With the more aggressive style he’s been playing, he’ll be much more vulnerable to cross-ice passes, even from non-high-danger shooting areas.
- Offensive zone entry – Continue to use the schemes that are clearly working for you, but make sure to target the Leafs’ slower veterans on defense for zone entries
- Defensive targeting – Target the offense driver on each line, and take advantage of the Leafs’ spread out offense. Holland, Marner and Kadri are guys who should especially be pressured
- Get the puck to the net – Not a revelation, but obviously the Leafs have both shaky goaltending and a penchant for defensive mistakes thus far, so it’s especially important tonight