Leafs & Panthers set for Game 1 at Scotiabank Arena: Leafs Tailgate
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Alberga1 month ago
For the first time in 19 years, the Leafs will take part in a second round Stanley Cup Playoff game tonight when they host the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Arena for Game 1.
Indisputably, both squads have scratched and clawed all season long to be in this position.
On Saturday night, the Leafs finally exorcised their first-round demons when they eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games thanks to John Tavares’ OT winner. Meantime, Carter Verhaeghe potted the Game 7 OT winner on Sunday night at TD Garden as the Cats stunned the Presidents’ Trophy winning Boston Bruins.
Not that it means much but Toronto went 3-0-1 against Florida in the regular season.
TIME: 7 ET (CBC, Sportsnet)
Sergei Bobrovsky- LIKELY (3-1, 3.94, 0.891)
TOR Ilya Samsonov – CONFIRMED (4-2, 3.14, 0.900)
3 KEYS TO VICTORY:
START ON TIME
Because it was such a huge point of emphasis in Round 1, the Leafs have to find a way to have better starts to their games in Round 2. To that point, hockey’s such a fickle sport. Despite getting off to some dreadful starts, the Leafs actually scored first in four of their six games against Tampa. Along those lines, I think now that they got the money off their back, I expect them to play a lot less tentative and nervous. It’s time to get back to what’s made this team so difficult to play against the past couple seasons. They need to utilize their speed, take care of the puck, and play with pace and urgency. When Toronto’s doing that, they’re a tough team to beat. We all know this team has another level to get to; we’ll see if the series victory unlocked it.
MAKE THINGS DIFFICULT FOR BOBROVSKY
On the surface, going from Andrei Vasilevskiy to Sergei Bobrovsky should be a walk in the park. I know he’s got two Vezina Trophies but those were a long time ago. Any way you slice it, Bobrovsky’s very beatable. Just like they did against Vasilevskiy, the Leafs need to do all they can to create traffic in front of Bobrovsky. He’s very beatable. To that point, I think it’s imperative they set the tone early in the series. The last thing you want is for Bobrovsky to gain confidence and get into a groove —if you catch my drift.
Just like Round 1, the special teams battle will likely go a long way in deciding who advances to the Eastern Conference Final. The Leafs went 6-for-21 on the power play against Tampa while the Panthers went 5-for-20 against Boston. Of note, Florida allowed 11 (!) power play goals against the Bruins, so you see why I’m bringing this up. For comparison’s sake, Toronto surrendered five power play goals over 21 total times short. In general, I’m fascinated to see how this series is officiated. Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. Having said that, it’s important for the Maple Leafs to do serious damage when they get the opportunities to do so. They should have the upper-hand here.
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