MAPLE LEAFS (10-13-5) at LIGHTNING (15-13-3)
After a having a lengthy time off since their last win against the New Jersey Devils, the Maple Leafs finally get ready for some play time against a guy who put himself in the spotlight last week.
Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town after an eventful week where Stamkos (a native of Markham, Ontario) liked a tweet about the possibility of him coming home and playing for the Leafs. I’m not going to dwell too much on that now, but I did take a look at the whole spectacle.
After losing two straight to the Winnipeg Jets (L 6-1) and Minnesota Wild (L 1-0), the Leafs quickly bounced back with two strong wins against the lethal St. Louis Blues (W 4-1) and the surging New Jersey Devils (W 3-2). These weren’t “character” wins as people say. The Leafs were by far the better team in both of those wins.
It’s clearly evident that the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t playing the same way they did that got them a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. With a 15-13-3 record, (4-4 in their last eight games played), expectations for this club are much higher. It also doesn’t help that the Lightning have been infected with the injury bug with injuries to key contributors like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.
Jonathan Bernier will be starting for the Leafs after returning from his conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League. Bernier went 3-0-1 with a 1.25 goals against average and a .948 save percentage. He allowed five goals in total. Those five goals all came from the Utica Comets, the final game of his time in the AHL. The final game was basically the type of games we’ve seen Bernier play in the NHL this season.
However, those are the type of numbers Bernier should have had after he was named the starter at the beginning of this year. But after allowing weak goals game after game, his confidence was gone. While his numbers were great in the AHL, we will see if he can translate his play from the minors back to the NHL when he takes the crease tonight. Until then, Bernier is still on the hot seat until he can elevate his play to the expectations of Mike Babcock and management.
While Steven Stamkos is leading the Lightning in points (22 points in 31 games played), his production is nowhere near as it should be. He registered only one shot against the Columbus Blue Jackets in last night’s 2-1 win and hasn’t scored a goal in nine games. It’s not just Stamkos, the whole team has been inconsistent this year. The team, offensively and defensively, needs to be better if they want to get back to the Stanley Cup.
It will be a special night for Frankie Corrado as he makes his debut with the hometown team. Corrado was claimed off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks back in October. After Babcock had mentioned that they had a plan for Corrado, it appears that that plan is now in full swing.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Gdiff (5v5) — -5
Gdiff (All) — -11
CF% (5v5) – 49.6
PP% – 18.2
PK% – 79.3
Tampa Bay Lightning
Gdiff (5v5) — +12
Gdiff (All) — +5
CF% (5v5) – 51.3
PP% – 17.0
PK% – 78.5
Today in Leafs History….
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