Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs have clinched home-ice advantage against the Lightning
10 months ago
Although the Leafs came up short in their game against the Bruins on Thursday night, the result of a game on Long Island ensured that they will begin the 2023 Playoffs in Toronto.
This was possible because the Leafs secured a point in their overtime loss while the Lightning lost in regulation against the Islanders. As a result, Tampa Bay cannot overtake Toronto in the standings before the regular season ends and the Leafs have secured the second seed in the Atlantic Division.
Since the Leafs had practically no shot of catching the Bruins since December, the goal throughout the latter half of the campaign has been to lock up home-ice advantage in the first round and they achieved it. The focus in the final four games of the regular season now shifts to trying out different combinations and ending off on the right foot.
I would not be surprised if Sheldon Keefe opts to healthy scratch the likes of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares among others to ensure that the top guns remain fresh and healthy to begin the postseason. You may also see the Leafs lean more on the bottom six as was the case in Boston to give the players further down the lineup a chance to establish their roles and get a feel for who will get the nod.
This would also provide Matthew Knies with a good chance to get his feet wet should he decide to sign with the Leafs after the Frozen Four tournament concludes this weekend. Salary cap permitting, you may also see the Leafs call up members of the Marlies who could be added to their reserve team if needed. Meaning you can probably expect the likes of Radim Zohorna, Nick Abruzzese, Pontus Holmberg, and Mac Hollowell to get some playing time to end the regular season.
Saturday night’s game against the Canadiens will be the Leafs’ regular-season finale at Scotiabank Arena. It will be followed by a three-game road trip to conclude the 2022-23 campaign, with one of these games being a playoff preview against the Lightning on Tuesday.
The countdown to Game 1 is underway.
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