Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning get together for a playoff dress rehearsal: Leafs Tailgate
Photo credit:Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Alberga1 month ago
We need a modernized version of the Abbott and Costello classic comedy sketch, “Who’s on First?”
“Who’s in goal for the Maple Leafs?” has a nice ring to it.
Coming off a 2-1 OT victory in Sunrise on Monday night, the Leafs will visit Tampa tonight for a tone setter ahead of the start of their first-round showdown with the Bolts next week.
Ilya Samsonov, Toronto’s projected Game 1 starter, made 45 stops against the Panthers. He was outstanding. I don’t care what the circumstances are, if I’m Sheldon Keefe, there’s no way you can play your No. 1 goalie in both ends of a back-to-back this close to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
For what it’s worth, not that it means much for tonight or next week, this one will act as the rubber match for the three-game season series between the Leafs and Lightning. Each squad has won on home ice.
Toronto’s 8-4-1 in the second game of a back-to-back this season.
TIME: 7 PM ET (TSN)
TOR Ilya Samsonov – LIKELY (27-10-5, 2.33, 0.919, 4 SO)
TBL Andrei Vasilevskiy – LIKELY (32-21-4, 2.63, 0.916, 4 SO)
WHO PLAYS? WHO RESTS?
With the team in a cap crunch and several players dealing with bumps and bruises, it’ll be interesting to see how Sheldon Keefe deploys his lineup. What makes things even more intriguing is tonight’s opponent. Will Keefe show Tampa anything? Does it matter? We’ll get our answers. Also, what’s the plan with Auston Matthews? He got No. 40; it’s time to rest him. I want this team as healthy as possible for Game 1.
JUST GET TO THE END
Sure, there’s a way the Leafs can use this one as a tone setter of sorts for what’s to come next week, but the most important thing undoubtedly is to find a way to escape the game with full health in fact. Again, it gets back to the whole lineup conversation. For starters, I would play Matthew Knies as much as possible. He got his feet wet last night and didn’t look out of place. Keep throwing him out there! Additionally, I wouldn’t put any of my money makers in vulnerable positions. For example, there’s no need for Mitch Marner to take reps on the penalty kill right now. Be smart. Two games left. Get there.
SET A TONE
Believe it or not, as advertised above, I think there’s a way to set a tone without paying a physically price. Personally, I just want to see the Leafs play with confidence, pace, and urgency. When they’re at their best, they come at their opposition in waves. Regardless of what Tampa’s lineup looks like tonight, it’s never early to start showing Jon Cooper and company what they’re in for. Over the past few years, both squads have played each other tough, and I don’t expect any different tonight. Good time to focus on team defence. I want to see some boring hockey.
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