LIGHTNING (40-24-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (23-34-11)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off a win 1-0 over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. In the process, they manage to play a part in holding off the Wings from making any significant movement in the playoff race.
The Leafs will look to continue to play spoiler as they take on the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.
Despite ending a three-game losing streak against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Lightning vaulted back to the top of the Atlantic Division with a nine-game winning streak in February and March. On top of that, they had a seven-game winning streak in the month of January. They currently sit one point back of the Boston Bruins for the top spot in their division.
Ben Bishop is coming off his fourth shutout of the season, making 37 saves in a 4-0 win over the Blue Jackets. In his last 10 games, Bishop is 7-2-1. When Bishop holds his opponent to two goals or less, the Lightning have a 24-10-1 record.
Once again, everyone’s eyes will be on potential unrestricted free agent, Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos reached the 30-goal plateau for the fifth time in eight seasons, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Lightning’s win over the Blue Jackets. Stamkos previously went four games without scoring a goal. Before that goal-less streak, Stamkos had four goals and two assists in five games. With 11 games left, Stamkos’ next mark is 40 goals.
The Lightning are at a crucial part of the season where their best players need to be their best players. Stamkos and Bishop did just that on Sunday and need to continue to do so.
Nikita Kucherov left Sunday’s game after taking a sucker punch from Dalton Prout. Although he was questionable, there’s a good chance he will play. Kucherov is tied with Stamkos for the team lead in points with 55.
While the Leafs continue to lament about the possibility of signing an elite goal scorer, they continue to scrape by and fight to the very end.
Despite having the lowest regulation wins total in the league (17), we continue to see a number of positives.
Before their 4-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Leafs kept every game within one goal for six straight games. Even though they are at the bottom of the NHL, it seems that the Leafs are playing for more than just pride. They could’ve ended up like the teams before them where they just threw in the towel, but every time they step onto the ice they play as if something is on the line and they make a statement.
Michael Grabner scored the only goal on Sunday for the Leafs, his seventh of the year and first in 30 games. His last goal came on January 2nd against the St. Louis Blues in a 4-1 win.
While the rookies were held pointless, Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov had their chances. They each had four shots on goal in the win over the Red Wings.
Jonathan Bernier will get the start for the Leafs after shutting out the Red Wings on Sunday, while the Bolts will turn to Andrei Vasilevskiy in net.
The Blue N’ White Podcast:
The guys at the Blue N’ White Podcast have another great show for Leafs fans.
This weeks episode includes a former Maple Leafs captain who spent seven season wearing the blue and white. He scored 30 goals in every single season and eclipsed the 50- goal mark three times.
Join host Robb Ellis and company as Rick Vaive is this weeks special guest.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Nikita Soshnikov – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
P. A. Parenteau – William Nylander – Zach Hyman
Colin Greening – Brooks Laich – Peter Holland
Milan Michalek – Ben Smith – Michael Grabner
Morgan Rielly – Martin Marincin
Jake Gardiner – Connor Carrick
Rinat Valiev – Frank Corrado
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Alex Killorn – Steven Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Vladislav Namestnikov
J. T. Brown – Brian Boyle – Ryan Callahan
Mike Blunden – Jonathan Marchessault – Erik Condra
Anton Stralman – Victor Hedman
Jason Garrison – Andrej Sustr
Matt Carle – Nikita Nesterov
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Gdiff (5v5) — -30
Gdiff (All) — -41
CF% (5v5) – 51.8
PP% – 15.0
PK% – 80.7
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Gdiff (5v5) — +21
Gdiff (All) — +27
CF% (5v5) – 52.1
PP% – 16.5
PK% – 83.3