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Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: The new kids are in town

The task now is to carry the momentum forward.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (18-15-3): GAME 37

Time: 7:30pm EST

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa

Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, SUN, SDO

Opponents SB Nation Site: Pension Plan Puppets

Previous Game Musings:

If you didn’t get a chance to catch the Lightning defeat the Montreal Canadiens last night, then I pity you. You missed an intense game. Not to steal any thunder (hehe) from our recap guys, I’ll be brief. The Lightning allowed the first goal for the 23rd time this season. 23 times out of 36 games. That’s 63% of the time the Lightning give up the first goal. This must stop.

Defensive mistakes and an Andrei Vasilevskiy mis-play put the Lightning down 3-1 after 2 periods. Vladislav Namestnikov was drilled into the boards by Shea Weber who inexplicably wasn’t called for boarding.

The Bolts finally came to life on goals from Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat to tie it. Tyler Johnson sealed the win in overtime further cementing his reputation as a “clutch” player. This game was an emotional roller coaster! I had a friend over watching the game with me (doesn’t know a thing about hockey) and he was in tears from laughter at the emotional swings this game gave me. I literally leaped off my couch screaming “TYLER JOHNSON!!” when #9 sealed the win. Moving on though…

Preview

The Toronto Maple Leafs or “new kids on the block” are in town today for a back-to-back series with Florida teams. I’m unsure how rare it is for both teams to play back-to-backs, but I surmise it’s not a common occurrence. The Leafs defeated the Florida Panthers last night 3-2 in a shootout after blowing a two-goal lead in the 3rd period. Auston Matthews and William Nylander were the goal scorers in regulation with Mitch Marner scoring the shootout winner for the Leafs.

Interesting little stat from that game: the Panthers and Leafs combined for 87 shots on goal. That’s just the shots that were counted, I didn’t even bother looking for attempted shots. Florida put 47 on net while Toronto put 40 down range. This is a Leafs team that loves to shoot the puck. The Leafs are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games and have won 3 straight while potting 26 goals and allowing 20.

The Lightning are coming off a brilliant comeback against the Canadiens, fending off defensive gaffes and spotty play to defeat Montreal 4-3 in overtime. The healthy returns of Kucherov, Palat, Hedman, Coburn, and Drouin were noticeable throughout the game. I stated in the last preview that we needed better goaltending, defensive stability, and better special teams to beat Montreal.

Well, all three of those factors were reasons why the Lightning allowed 3 goals last night. Goal 1: Vasy mis-play. Goal 2: Poor coverage on the PK, but Montreal did do a great job to set that goal up. Goal 3: Slater Koekkoek decided to slide for a poke check, leaving Point alone in front to cover two Habs players who scored an easy goal. Outside of those gaffes and some really weird bounces that made Vasilevskiy make some interesting saves, the Lightning came back because they started to carry the play at even strength better than Montreal did.

The team outshot Montreal 30-22 throughout the game, only being outshot in the 1st period by 8-7; and they had a few dangerous chances that they couldn’t convert on. Ondrej Palat was denied by Carey Price on one hell of a paddle save that could possibly be a Save Of the Year candidate. Montreal had their surges, but Tampa did a very good job at limiting chances once the game settled after the Habs went up 3-1. Once the midway point of the 2nd passed, the Lightning maintained pressure on the Canadiens until the game ended.

The pressure the Bolts put on Montreal has to be the same against Toronto, a team that isn’t as defensively sound and prone to breakdowns in their own zone.

Bad news out of last night’s game are the possible injuries to Vladislav Namestnikov and Brayden Point. Namestnikov took a brutal hit from Shea Weber that was inexplicably not penalized. Braydon Point took a slash from Alexander Radulov, and he looked a bit bothered during the play. He finished his shift, then left for the locker room. Both players did not finish the game. So expect more call-ups this morning Bolts fans.

With last night’s win, the Lightning gained some much-needed momentum. The task now is to carry that momentum forward against a Toronto team that is fast, skilled, and hungry. Cooper didn’t like how Vasilevskiy handled the last back-to-back, and is going to start him against Toronto to challenge him. Line combos will be jumbled again outside of the triplets (if Cooper wants Tampa to survive the Triplets re-emergence is the key), since Namestnikov and Point will more than likely both sit out. That means Filppula will be back in after his strange scratching last night, and a call-up, possibly Yanni Gourde, will suit up.

Game one of the five game home stand ended with a “W”, the Bolts have the confidence and the momentum to take the second game too.

Preview Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin

Alex Killorn - Matthew Peca - Erik Condra

Michael Bournival - JT Brown- Nikita Nesterov

Yanni Gourde

Defence Pairings

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn -Slater Koekkoek

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Kristers Gudlevskis

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitchell Marner

Matt Martin - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Antoine Bibeau

Frederik Andersen