2Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

LGD: Visiting the Computer Boys

About a month ago, the Florida Panthers and their fans were feeling quite smug. After a rough start to the season filled with injuries, the South Beach Computer Boys found themselves sitting third in the Atlantic Division, ahead of 5 other teams and… in a playoff spot.  A preseason Stanley Cup darkhorse, everything was coming together for them. According to hockeyviz.com, the team had a 54% playoff chance and by all means, looked competitive again.

Since that tweet, they’ve earned just 5 points in their past 10 games, and dropped to 6th in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. Their playoff chances have dropped to just 4%.

So who are the real Panthers? I have no clue.

They’re 7 points back of the Leafs currently for the final Eastern playoff spot. It’s a swing game if you’ve ever seen one. A losing effort would put the Panthers 9 points back of the Leafs and in need of about 24-26 points in their final 14 games to reach the 93-95 point range typically needed to make the playoffs. A winning effort on the other hand doesn’t make the climb a whole lot easier, but at least within reasonable range.

If the Leafs are looking to push an opponent to the bottom rung of the playoff race ladder, tonight would be a great night to do it. It isn’t Tampa Bay or the Islanders or the Bruins, but still a crucial matchup moving forward.

The Leafs

LW C RW
Zach Hyman
Zach Hyman
Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews
William Nylander
William Nylander
Leo Komarov
Leo Komarov
Nazem Kadri
Nazem Kadri
Connor Brown
Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk
James van Riemsdyk
Tyler Bozak
Tyler Bozak
Mitchell Marner
Mitchell Marner
Matt Martin
Matt Martin
Brian Boyle
Brian Boyle
Nikita Soshnikov
Nikita Soshnikov
Defensive Pairings
Morgan Rielly
Morgan Rielly
Nikita Zaitsev
Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner
Jake Gardiner
Martin Marincin
Martin Marincin
Matt Hunwick
Matt Hunwick
Roman Polak
Roman Polak

The Leafs are healthy and looking pretty similar to what they’ve looked all season. Who will emerge as tonight’s top line? Will Mike Babcock use Ryan Fancey as an advisor and cut back on Auston Matthews’ ice time? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Leafs come into this game looking to sweep the season series over the Panthers, having won twice in Toronto in regulation and in Florida in the shootout(?!!?!?!?!?)  in late December.

The Panthers

Defensive Pairings
Keith Yandle
Keith Yandle
Jason Demers
Jason Demers
Michael Matheson
Michael Matheson
Alex Petrovic
Alex Petrovic
Jakub Kindl
Jakub Kindl
Mark Pysyk
Mark Pysyk

Injured tonight is Roberto Luongo, Aaron Ekblad, and Dennis “Not Evgeni” Malgin. The Panthers have taken on the magical distinction of creating a typically solid roster despite having a smorgsaboard of mostly unkown NHL players. It’s the first look for the Leafs of Thomas Vanek in a Panthers uniform, who’s matched up twice against them this year in a Wings uniform.

Who’s in net?

No, who’s on first.

Between the pipes

Oh no.

It’s James Reimer vs. Frederik Andersen. Avoid Twitter if the game is close.

Where to watch

TSN4 will be carrying the game, but most of the fans at the game will probably be Leafs fans anyway, so maybe we’ll see you there.