Leafs AM skate notes: Bunting scratched as Toronto looks to close out series vs. Lightning
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Barden28 days ago
The Maple Leafs have a golden opportunity on Thursday evening: eliminate the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Stanley Cup playoffs after just five games.
We’ve yet to see them finish a team off, but plenty of fans, media, and even Sheldon Keefe believe that this Maple Leafs team is different.
Toronto had an optional morning skate ahead of Game 5, though a couple players still took to the ice to get some reps in prior to the Lightning and Maple Leafs’ meeting at Scotiabank Arena.
Ilya Samsonov, Joseph Woll, Ryan O’Reilly, Mark Giordano, and Luke Schenn are all projected to be in Toronto’s lineup for Game 5. Erik Kallgren (EBUG), Michael Bunting, Wayne Simmonds, Timothy Liljegren, Erik Gustafsson, and Conor Timmins each project to be the scratches.
As we all know already, Bunting will not play on Thursday as Keefe elects to keep Toronto’s lineup the same from Game 4 in Tampa.
One player who didn’t take morning skate on Thursday was NHL rookie, Matthew Knies, who’s flourished since joining the Maple Leafs from college. And even captain John Tavares has taken notice.
Knies, although 20-years-old, has played like he’s a veteran of 50+ playoff games. His strength along the boards and the mindset that he has not to get rattled in big moments highlights the type of player he is, and will become.
He, like every other player on the Maple Leafs, will need to bring their best game against the team who’s been to three-straight Stanley Cup finals.
This is Toronto’s projected lineup for Game 5 vs. the Lightning:
When it comes to Tampa, Erik Cernak will once again not be in the lineup for Game 5, head coach Jon Cooper said on Wednesday, per Lightning reporter Chris Krenn.
Similar to Toronto, Tampa projects to have the same lineup as they did in Game 4, which was this:
One of the fascinating aspects of this series is how the Maple Leafs have learned to exploit Andrei Vasilevskiy through shots from the point.
On Monday evening, former Lightning assistant coach, and now Red Wings head coach, Derek Lalonde, said on Sportsnet that Tampa did a study (when he was still with the team) and found that Vasilevskiy struggled with finding pucks from the point.
What makes it even more interesting is that Cooper, post-practice on Wednesday, said Lalonde has “just got to make sure it’s accurate.”
I’m curious as to whether the Maple Leafs have learned that about Vasilevskiy, and if it actually is factual. Nevertheless, it makes this series between Toronto and Tampa that more interesting.
Game 5 gets underway on Thursday evening at Scotiabank Arena with puck drop to come shortly after 7 p.m. EST.
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