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Preview: Maple Leafs set to face Lightning in game 69 of the season

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The Maple Leafs play the nicest game of the season.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 13: Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning stops a shot from Patrick Marleau #12 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during a game at Amalie Arena on December 13, 2018 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Toronto Maple Leafs: Game #69 - Nice

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Location: Scotiabank Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet Ontario

Opponent SBNation Site: Raw Charge (be nice, they’re friends)

Ugh do we have to? The only team that has been on a bigger rampage of winning recently than the Boston Bruins has been the Tampa Bay Lightning. Winners of 13 of their last 15, the Lightning already have 108 points on the season and are clinched to finish at worst third in the Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile, the Leafs are trudging along at what in a normal season would be described as a torrid pace in the direction of the Presidents Trophy. The Leafs are on pace for 107 points, the best in franchise history, while putting up the second best goal differential in the league (second to you know who).


As for lineup notes, there has been no official word about the fourth line for the Leafs. Currently, Mike Babcock has employed a rotation for his bottom four players, so odds are that Nic Petan and Trevor Moore will slot in for Tyler Ennis and Frederik Gauthier. Yes, I know we all want Connor Brown to get a day off, but with the Lightning’s lethal power play coming to town, the odds of Mike Babcock sitting one of his best penalty killers is as good as the Ottawa Senators’ chances of making the playoffs this year: exactly 0%.

On defense, will we see Justin Holl step in for Igor Ozhiganov? Possibly. The rest of the corps is under the weather. To make matters worse, it was reported that Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman will be out of action for the Marlies for a long while. I said in this thread yesterday that the likely call-ups in case there are any more injuries on defense (knock on wood) would be Vincent LoVerde or Rasmus Sandin. Yep. We’re potentially getting to that point now. And for those asking about Liljegren, I bring him up in the thread.

Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman or Tyler Ennis - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Trevor Moore - Frederik Gauthier - Connor Brown

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Muzzin - Nikita Zaitsev
Martin Marincin - Igor Ozhiganov

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen
Garret Sparks

Zach Hyman was absent from practice, so Nic Petan took his place in line rushes, and Mark Masters believes there is a rotation going too:


The Lightning also have been implementing a rotation system with their players (mostly the defensemen), but recently they’ve hit the injury bug as well. Adam Erne, Anton Stralman, and Dan Girardi are all on the injured reserve at the moment, meaning Ryan Callahan, Braydon Coburn, and Syracuse Crunch call-up Jan Rutta have stepped into the lineup.

You’d never know that this team has injuries if you looked at their lineup. For Colaiacovo’s sake, they have Yanni Gourde on the fourth line and it doesn’t even look weird!

(Shoutout Lauren Kelly at Raw Charge for these lines).

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - J.T. Miller
Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Yanni Gourde - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Injured: Adam Erne
Scratched: Danick Martel

Defense

Victor Hedman - Mikhail Sergachev
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Braydon Coburn - Jan Rutta
Injured: Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Louis Domingue


After the season he’s been having, Nikita Kucherov should win the Hart and Ted Lindsay at year’s end. Full stop. Just taking pure points into account, here is a list of the top three point scorers on the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs combined:

Nikita Kucherov - 110
Brayden Point - 82
Mitchell Marner - 82

Kucherov is 28 points ahead of the the next best player on his team AND the top scorer on the league’s second-best offensive team in the league. Not to mention, his 110 points are two better than Connor McDavid’s league-leading 108 points that collected him the Art Ross and Ted Lindsay last year.

I can keep going. Let’s keep going.

His 22 goals and 45 assists (67 points) at even strength alone are nearly at a point-per-game pace. In terms of shot metrics, Kucherov is healthily above water in all the metrics. Historically, Kucherov also passed Vincent Lecavalier in the single-season franchise points record of 109 with 13 games to spare. If that doesn’t kill the narrative that he’s just being carried by his team, I don’t know what to tell you.

Also, while I was perusing the Raw Charge website, I stumbled upon this article. Interesting.