The Tampa Bay Lightning are set to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first ever playoff meeting in what is perhaps the most anticipated early round series in Lightning history.
The Lightning’s quest for a three peat will have to go through the center of the hockey universe against a team who has not won a playoff series since 2004. There will be no shortage of attention around this series and the headlines are a plenty.
Let’s get into our three biggest headlines revolving around this series.
1. Is this finally the Leafs’ Time?
The playoff struggles for Toronto have been well documented. They have made the playoffs the last five years and failed to get out of the first round. This may be a make-or-break moment for the franchise as the pressure is at an all-time high on this team to finally find some playoff success. There would not be a more perfect way to exorcise their playoff demons than potentially knocking off the two-time defending champs.
2. Stammer Against his Home Team
Steven Stamkos has been the hottest player in the NHL over the final stretch of the regular season. And now, he has a chance to keep it rolling against his hometown team. When Stamkos was a free agent in 2016, the Leafs tried to roll out the red-carpet homecoming opportunity for Stamkos to come to Toronto. He did not go. He chose Tampa. And now he’s got an opportunity to etch his name further into Lightning lore as he finally has an opportunity to play in the playoffs at full health.
3. Goaltending. Can Campbell Keep up with Vasilevskiy?
Maple Leaf netminder Jack Campbell got off to an incredible start to the season. Injuries derailed his season and brought on struggles. Recently he has been better, but if the Leafs are going to come close to knocking off the Lightning, they will need Campbell to be nearly perfect. The biggest separator in the entire playoffs is Andrei Vasilevskiy and Campbell will need to outplay Vasilevskiy a minimum of two times if the Leafs want to take down the best goalie on the planet.
The series will begin Monday night with game one in Toronto at 7:30 PM.