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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

LGD: Bolting out of the playoffs

After Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Florida Panthers, the Toronto Maple Leafs need to win games now more than ever.  Tonight, they will be facing a divisional rival just 1 point ahead of them in the standings.  Neither the Leafs or the Lightning sit in a playoff position right now, but a win tonight would be crucial for each team.

The season is winding down and the Leafs’ playoff hopes may be winding down with it.  Tonight is do or die for both teams, and this is, indisputably, one of the most important games of the season for Toronto.

THE LEAFS

Here are the Leafs’ projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Mike Babcock decided to shuffle around the Leafs defensive pairings after Tuesday’s game, opting to separate Nikita Zaitsev and Morgan Rielly. The two were arguably the team’s worst defenseman against Florida.

The Hunlak pairing is unaffected by this shuffle, though.  Matt Hunwick & Roman Polak: Together Forever.

Josh Leivo is a healthy scratch for Toronto, yet again.  Tonight would have been the perfect opportunity for Leivo to play, considering the circumstance.  Leivo has 9 points through 12 games for the Leafs this season, but still can’t seem to crack the lineup.

THE BOLTS

Here are the Lightning’s projected lines, as per Daily Faceoff:

Tampa has seemingly been plagued by forward injuries as of late, as Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson and Ryan Callahan will remain sidelined for tonight’s game.  Despite these injuries, Tampa has played fairly well this season.  The team has gone 34-26-9 this year and currently sits 1 point ahead of the Leafs in the Atlantic Division.

Nikita Kucherov leads the team in points, scoring 31 goals and 38 assists (69 points) in 62 games.

Remember Greg McKegg? The former Marlie and current AHL call-up is slotted in on Tampa’s third line for tonight.  McKegg has 0 points through 5 NHL games this season.   The Lightning also announced this morning that they have recalled Byron Froese from the AHL – Froese will face the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time since being traded away in late February.

STARTING GOALIES

Frederik Andersen will be starting in net for the Leafs tonight, after letting in 3 goals on 8 shots in the first period of Tuesday’s blowout.  With the Florida game as an exception, Freddie has been playing relatively well as of late.  The Leafs will need solid goaltending tonight if they have any chance of winning, and Andersen will need to get back to the stable goalie he’s proved himself to be over the course of this season.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will be starting in net for Tampa tonight.  Vasilevskiy has started 7 out of the last 9 games for the Lightning since the Ben Bishop trade, tallying a 0.957 save percentage and a 1.29 GAA.  He has won in 6 out of his last 7 games, allowing 9 goals in that span, and it’s really no surprise Vasilevskiy will be starting tonight for Tampa tonight.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Brian Boyle and the Leafs 4th line have seen a lot of success in recent games, despite last Tuesday’s undesirable result. Boyle seems to be fitting in well with Toronto, and tonight he will face off against Tampa tonight for the first time since being traded in February.

The Leafs NEED to win tonight.  I don’t know what else to say besides that. Don’t just take my word for it, though:

Toronto’s playoff chances fell from 53% to 38% after last game, and would certainly see another significant drop with a loss tonight.  I’m not going to say that the Leafs won’t make the playoffs if they lose tonight’s game, but unfortunately, giving up 2 points to the Bolts would make it a lot more difficult pass them in the standings, with only 14 games left in the season.

Tonight’s game will begin at 7:30pm EST, broadcasted on Sportsnet Ontario.

  • Glen

    I guess the reality is the Leafs will do the best they can but as always there will be two teams on the ice. The Leafs need to be focused and play with passion. Those two elements seem to be missing sometimes with this team.