The Tampa Bay Lightning head north of the border for the first of their two-game road-trip in the province of Ontario. The first stop brings them to the center of the hockey universe to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at 7pm.
Tampa Bay’s last meeting with the Leafs came on March 10th, 2020. Toronto topped the Lightning 2-1 in what was the very last Lightning game before the COVID-19 shutdown. This also marks the first game the Lightning have played in Toronto since their double overtime win in game five against the Boston Bruins during the second round of the 2020 playoffs.
The Lightning come into Thursday riding their longest win streak of the season at three in a row. With a goal on Monday’s win over the Capitals, Alex Killorn extended his lead as the Lightning’s top goal scorer on the season. He has seven goals through the first nine games.
Now let’s look at the Leafs.
Toronto comes in at 5-4-1, a similar mark to Tampa’s 5-3-1. Like the Lightning, Toronto got out of the gates slowly and their play was inconsistent. Following yet another disappointing playoff exit last year, the pitchforks and angry mob have been out for everybody in the Leafs organization in the early part of the season.
Things have started to improve in Maple Leaf land as Toronto has now won three games in a row. On Tuesday night, goaltender Jack Campbell shut out the Vegas Golden Knights 4-0 to win their third in a row.
Part of the Leafs slow start to the season can be attributed to Auston Matthews missing the first three games of the year with a wrist injury.
Even after returning, Matthews has been behind in his typical production. Matthews came into this season as the favorite to lead the league in goals. Through seven games, Matthews has just three goals and one assist.
What to expect:
This game has the potential to turn into a track meet. Two high powered offenses that can put the puck in the net. Both teams understand the firepower on the opposite side, and I think we can expect a tightly contested battle rather than barn burner.
The expectations are always high in Toronto, and this will serve as a measuring stick game for the Maple Leafs and the champs coming to town should bring the best out of them.
The difference in this one may come down to special teams. After the Lightning powerplay has finally found some success in their last two games, we will see if they can keep it rolling. The Penalty kill will be a difference maker as well as Toronto brings one of the leagues most star-studded units. This Atlantic Division should be one you don’t want to miss as both team’s look to snap the others three game win streak.