The last time these two teams met, the Lightning kicked the Leafs to the tune of 7-3 on the road. Now that they’ve had such a result turned back on them after the embarrassing loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night, it’s time to make amends.
On the stats sheets, the Leafs and the Lightning are very similar at first glance. Both have near-identical goals for, shot share, and power play efficiencies, but then there’s a massive drop off between the Leafs abilities defensively and the Bolts.
One major reason for this is that the Leafs have been getting .898 save percentage goaltending (25th in the league) from Frederik Andersen, Michael Hutchinson (since traded), and now Jack Campbell. Surprisingly, this has come up since January, but it’s still a big hole that has put the Leafs so far down the standings.
Another thing the Leafs don’t have going for them is their mental fortitude. They played an awful game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night, losing to their own AHL team’s zamboni driver as the emergency backup goalie.
A lot of questions were asked after that game, which felt like the flashpoint to the worrisome effort the team has been putting in all season. At the deadline, GM Kyle Dubas didn’t make any major changes (other than a couple wingers and a backup goalie earlier in the month) so the Leafs still are what it is. They obviously feel the pressure heading into Tampa today, which means the Lightning should expect a big push early. They’re the team the Leafs want to be.
As for the Lightning, they made some bold moves getting two very particular wingers and what could potentially be a washed defenseman in February. GM Julien BriseBois and his team made a distinct point to go out and get “two heavy, hard, competitive forwards.” They did so, to the cost of two first-round picks and Nolan Foote. Whether the cost was worth it is to be decided now and hopefully in May/June. It certainly is a bold move.
BriseBois said after mid-season meetings w/ coaching & scouting staff, felt team could benefit most by adding 2 heavy, hard, competitive forwards and ideally one would be a physical center. The 2 players they identified as being the best fit were Coleman & Goodrow. #Bolts— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) February 24, 2020
Currently, the Lightning are dealing with a few injuries, particularly on defense. While it looks like Brayden Point is healthy again, the Lightning expect to be without Jan Rutta for the next 2-3 weeks, but could see Erik Cernak back in the lineup as early as tonight after suffering an injury on Saturday.
INJURY UPDATE: Rutta still 2-3 weeks out. BriseBois said Cernak’s injury not as serious day-to-day, “hopeful” for game vs Toronto Tuesday.— Caley Chelios (@CaleyChelios) February 24, 2020
Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Blake Coleman - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Barclay Goodrow
Pat Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde
Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak*
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk
Braydon Coburn - Zach Bogosian
Maple Leafs Lines
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
William Nylander - John Tavares - Denis Malgin
Pierre Engvall - Alex Kerfoot - Kasperi Kapanen
Kyle Clifford - Frederik Gauthier - Jason Spezza
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren
Travis Dermott - Tyson Barrie