Game One Preview and Game Day Thread: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs
Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs: Game 1 (Series 0-0)
Time: 7:30 P.M.
Location: Scotiabank Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN, CBC, TVAS, SNE, SNP, SNP
Opponent's Site: Pension Plan Puppets
DraftKings Line: Lightning +1.5 (O/U 6)
Whelp. All the previews and analysis are done and the teams can now figure things out on the ice. The big question we've been pondering during the second half of the season has been - can the Lightning turn it up a notch when the playoffs begin? We've seen them do it in the past, but the vibes on this team seem a little different. Whether it's because their stars are year older or if it's because a couple of the key components from their previous runs are gone, things to seem a little off. However, it's just an opportunity for new players to assume the mantle of clutch postseason hero.
Will we get a definitive answer to the question tonight in Game One? Probably not. After all, you just have to go back one postseason to see how little the outcome of the first playoff game of the postseason means. The Leafs basically blew the Lightning out of the water with a 5-0 victory in Scotiabank Arena that had the crowd absolutely delirious by the time the final horn sounded. The Lightning managed to find their game over the next six outings and made that victory irrelevant.
We might get some clues on how things will play out, though. We'll see if the Lightning are going to be able to produce offense from the bottom-six. If the School Bus Line and the Ross Colton-Nick Paul-Michael Eyssimont lines can hold their own or tip the scoring scales in their favor the Lightning will have a good chance.
The power play will be a big key for the Lightning in this series as well. The Leafs will be keying off of Nikita Kucherov when they're down a skater. If the Bolts can still find ways to generate scoring chances with Kucherov blanketed that will be a positive sign.
The Bolts will also have to find a way to deal with the Leafs forecheck. Teams have learned that the best way to beat the Lightning is to keep them pinned back in their own zone with an aggressive forecheck. If the Lightning are able to secure the puck and work it out into the neutral zone with short, crisp passing then chances are they are going to be okay. If they're turning it over or just blindly flinging the puck out into the middle of the ice, that is going to be problematic.
Everything that has happened prior can pretty much get thrown out the window. The last time these two teams met was a penalty-filled slop of a game and Toronto was playing with a short roster. They'll have all of their big guns going tonight and it's going to take a dedicated effort from the entire Lightning team to scratch out a win. They can't afford to gift the Maple Leafs extra opportunities throughout the game, if they do, bad things will happen.
Pretty much everyone has predicted that the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to win this series. Which, lets face it, based on the stats, would be the call. Now, they did say pretty much the same thing last year and the Bolts pulled it off, but in order to repeat the upset the Lightning are going to have to rely on more than "experience".
They will have to execute their game plan. Keeping mistakes to a minimum and converting on the opportunities that present themselves. There is really no room for error in this series. The dedication to making small plays and winning puck battles has to start tonight. If they do that, they have a chance to pull out the win in Game One and the series.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Ross Colton - Nick Paul - Michael Eyssimont
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Nick Perbix
Mikhail Sergachev - Darren Raddysh
Ian Cole - Erik Cernak
The lines were based on Monday's practice. Tanner Jeannot was rotating in on the third line, but Coach Cooper confirmed he will not be in for Game One.
Toronto Maple Leafs Potential Lines
Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
John Tavares - Ryan O'Reilly - William Nylander
Alex Kerfoot - Noel Acciari - Calle Jarnkrok
Zach Aston-Reese - David Kampf - Sam Lafferty
Bryan McCabe - T.J. Brodie
Morgan Reilly - Luke Schenn
Mark Giordano - Justin Holl
Lines based on Monday's practice.