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Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs Preview and Game Day Thread: This should be fun

Despite both sides being shorthanded, there is still a lot of talent on the ice.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs: Game 26

Time: 7:00 pm ET

Location: Scotiabank Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, TSN4

Opponent SB Nation Site: Pension Plan Puppets

This should be a fun game. Two really good teams, both riding hot streaks (Toronto and Tampa Bay are both 7-2-1 in their last 10 games), that have a predilection for scoring and solid goaltending will meet tonight with something to prove. Yes, it’s still early in the season, but the Lightning have a chance to match the Leafs in points and Toronto has the chance to show, well, that they can hang with the two-time Stanley Cup champions.

Sadly, neither team will be at full strength as the Lightning are still missing Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and probably Erik Cernak while the Maple Leafs will be without Mitch Marner (shoulder injury), Rasmus Sandin (knee injury) and Jason Spezza (suspension). The good news is that there is still plenty of talent that will be in the building and on the ice.

After a bit of a slow start, Auston Matthews is back on his quest to be the best hockey player not named Connor McDavid (and to some in The Six, the best player period) and Michael Bunting has thrown his name in the ring for a Calder Trophy. Both teams like to produce quality chances while limiting the danger against them.

Evolving Hockey

Tampa Bay is a little stingier in the xGA category, but both teams generating more expected goals then they allow, which is a good thing. While the first thoughts of this match-up might be of the teams flying up and down the ice flinging pucks at the net, both sides are a little more disciplined than that. That’s something we’ve seen from the Lightning over the past two seasons, and something the Leafs are finally starting to realize they need to do in order to be successful in the regular and post seasons.

It’s also helpful to have a really, really good goaltender in net. No need to elaborate on Andrei Vasilevskiy, right? We know everything we need to know about him. On the Toronto side it’s been a breakout season for Smilin’ Jack “Soupy” Campbell, the break out star from the Amazon Prime All or Nothing show that documented the Leafs 2020-21 season.

Campbell has been an absolute beast in net. According to Evolving Hockey he is second in the league with 12.55 goals saved above average in all situations, trailing only Igor Shesterkin in that category. His standard stats are even gaudier as he’s posted a 14-4-2 record with a ,939 SV% and 1,89 GAA. Maybe he’s the missing piece for the Leafs as they chase post-season glory (or at least a first round victory).

The Lightning are riding a nice four-game winning streak after their third-period comeback win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. Coach Cooper would probably like to see a bit more of a complete effort from his team, especially in the first period. Oddly enough, despite their rather uninspired starts to recent games, the Lightning have only allowed 11 first period goals, the fewest in the NHL. Call it the Vasilevskiy Factor since he seems to bail them out until they get their offense engaged.

Expect the Lightning netminder to be busy as the Leafs are leading the league in shot attempts (1,354 at 5v5) and are second in shots on goal (757 at 5v5). He does tend to be more engaged when swamped with work so that could be a good thing.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines:

Forwards

Ondrej Palat — Steven Stamkos — Mathieu Joseph

Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Gabriel Fortier

Patrick Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Corey Perry

Taylor Raddysh — Ross Colton — Boris Katchouk

Scratched: Riley Nash

Defense

Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh — Zach Bogosian

Mikhail Sergachev — Cal Foote

TBD: Erik Cernak

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy - Projected Starter

Brian Elliott

Toronto Maple Leafs Lines

Forwards

Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - Wayne Simmonds

Alex Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander

Nick Ritchie - David Kämpf - Ondřej Kaše

Kyle Clifford - Pierre Engvall - Alex Steeves

Defense

Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie

Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl

Kristiāns Rubīns - Timothy Liljegren

Goaltenders

Jack Campbell

Joseph Woll