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Aston-Reese draws in for Knies as Leafs visit Panthers for Game 3: Leafs Tailgate

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Alberga
9 months ago
Regardless of the cliché you want to use to depict it, tonight’s a game the Leafs just need to have.
Down 0-2 in their best-of-7, Toronto will look to cut their series deficit in half when they visit the Florida Panthers at F-L-A Live Arena for Game 3.
Back on Tuesday night, the Cats drew first blood with a 4-2 victory. Then, on Thursday night, they double dipped with a come-from-behind 3-2 win on the back of another superb performance from Sergei Bobrovsky. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner has turned aside 69 shots (nice!) of 73 so far through two outings. He’s been outstanding.
Despite the fact that they’re just two losses from their season coming to abrupt end, believe it or not, there’s actually a few factors still working in Toronto’s favour. For starters, they don’t have to look too far to find a team that they can directly relate to. In Round 1, the Devils lost both Game 1 and Game 2 on home ice against the Rangers before storming back to take that series in seven games.
Additionally, Toronto’s home/road splits could work to their benefit in this predicament, too. Through eight postseason games, they’re 1-4 at Scotiabank Arena and a perfect 3-0 on the road. Of course, all three were decided in OT at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Any way you slice it, it’s put up or shut up time for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Let’s get it! Zach Aston-Reese will draw in for the injured Matthew Knies.
 
TIME: 7 ET (CBC, Sportsnet)
 
STARTING GOALIES:
TOR Ilya Samsonov – CONFIRMED (4-4, 3.27, 0.895)
@
FLA Sergei Bobrovsky – CONFIRMED (5-1, 3.33, 0.908)
 
PROJECTED LINEUPS:
Bunting-Matthews-Nylander
Jarnkrok-Tavares-Marner
Kerfoot-O’Reilly-Acciari
Aston-Reese-Kampf-Lafferty
 
McCabe-Brodie
Rielly-Schenn
Giordano-Liljegren
 
Verhaeghe-Barkov-Duclair
Cousins-Bennett-Tkachuk
Luostarinen-Lundell-Reinhart
White-Staal-Dalpe
 
Forsling-Ekblad
Staal-Montour
Mahura-Gudas
 
3 KEYS TO VICTORY:
PUCK MANAGEMENT
Until they find a way to break through in this department, I will continue to hammer it home as a monumental key to victory. While there’s no question the Leafs have been the better of the two teams early on the series, their poor puck management has cost them dearly. Furthermore, the Panthers have been very opportunistic in capitalizing on Toronto’s mistakes and making them pay greatly. It goes without saying but if the Leafs can’t find a way to limit their turnovers and giveaways, it could be curtains for Sheldon Keefe and company in short order.
PUT EVERYTHING ON NET
Obviously, Sergei Bobrovsky is very dialled in right now. That said, year in and year out, the Leafs possess one of the league’s top offences for a reason. On top of that, they’re coming off a series victory against Andrei Vasilevskiy, which should give them confidence in the long run. Personally, I would love to see them get in the dirty areas a bit more in front of Bobrovsky and make life difficult for the guy. And I’m not talking about running him or anything. All you can do when someone’s hot like this is believe in yourself and keep mounting the pressure/attack. At some point, the dam will burst. I’m confident in saying that; this team’s too talented.
SAMMY TIME
I wasn’t crazy about Ilya Samsonov’s, “I don’t give a f**k” quote after he was asked about his counterpart Sergei Bobrovsky’s performance following Game 2. I mean, he should give a puck —but I do comprehend why he answered like that. At any rate, there’s no question the Leafs need their No. 1 netminder to be a positive factor moving forward. Even though it’s important to acknowledge that numbers aren’t everything, Samsonov has been nowhere close to Bobrovsky so far in the series. At the very least, he can’t be surrendering the softies (like the Barkov one), something unfortunately this franchise/fan base has been prone to witnessing over the years of dismay. I would love a signature Ilya Samsonov performance tonight.
 
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MITCH’S DISHES:
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