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FTB: It won’t be this easy in the playoffs

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Why the Leafs shouldn’t feel cocky about playing the Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 10: Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at the Scotiabank Arena on March 10, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning. A 4-3 win two weeks ago, and a 2-1 last night. Both great wins and redemption from the 7-3 embarrassment on October 10th, which feels like eons ago.

The Leafs should definitely feel good about those wins. The offense is working after a week on the fritz. The defense just got a big boost from Morgan Rielly and his ability to play top competition every night for 25 minutes. And Frederik Andersen is looking the way he should. They played the Lightning’s possession style (which is also Keefe’s style) and crushed them at it. Things are going well and the Leafs should be happy.

Meanwhile, on the other side, there’s a lot of frustration surrounding the Lightning. Following their 11 game winning streak through January and February, they’ve been an extremely inconsistent team. They’ve lost to teams like Detroit, Chicago, and Arizona in very similar fashions to the way the Leafs have been losing to lesser competition. But they’ve also had character wins like the one against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

The Lightning have hit the injury bug pretty hard. They’re currently without Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Jan Rutta. They were without Ryan McDonagh for a long time until just recently. And not to mention all the little nagging things that have kept the likes of Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli out of the lineup once in a while.

All of these injuries have hurt the Lightning’s top-end by a significant amount and going up against it when they are healthy won’t be the same as out-shooting them 15-1 to start a game. And I know Stamkos isn’t expected back until after the first round, but it’s pretty much a guarantee he’s playing in Game #1.

Lightning are also a pissed off hockey team. They got embarrassed by Columbus last year and there is no way they’re letting those mistakes get glossed over this time. That’s why they spent two first-round picks on Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. They’ve become a mean team to play against when they need to be. I’m actually a little surprised we didn’t see more of it in this game last night. I mean, apart from the obvious.

Playing dirty was one of the tactics that worked for the Lightning against the Bruins and they’re really good at playing it now. I’m really worried if they do what the Bruins did to the Leafs, they’ll have as much success as the Bruins did with the Leafs.

And the Lightning are definitely capable of playing that way, especially with the goalie they have behind them. Andrei Vasilevskiy had a goals saved above expected of 1.35 in last night’s game against Toronto. Typically speaking for a goalie, if you had a GSAE of over 1, you stole the game. Vasilevskiy would’ve stolen the game if his team gave him some run support. And when Stamkos and Hedman return, they will.

Leafs Branches

There are also a lot of weak points on the Lightning roster and I wrote about them in the Raw Charge recap of the Bolts vs. Leafs game. Spoiler, his name starts with Erik and ends with Cernak.

I heard Matthews say the quote live and it was the most boring tone given to something that is actually quite funny.

Baby Leafs Branches

There was a ton of prospect content coming out of the site yesterday. Starting off with Mikhail Abramov earning a three-year ELC with the Maple Leafs. The team might be able to sneak him into the AHL next season (kids ride the GO free) by claiming him as a European import into the CHL.

Seldo wrote up a prospect report for all the kids in the system. With European seasons ending (Coronavirus or on their own), a lot of these prospects might find themselves on the Marlies within the next week or so.

And from a couple days ago, Nick Robertson is on his way to making OHL history as a 19-year-old.

Non-Leafs Branches

Oh, so we’re doing Ceremonial Emergency Backup Goalies now?

It would be nice if Hockey Canada paid them all a bonus for making the team or something. We all know how hard it is for women to make a living playing hockey and missing out on income from the biggest tournament they’ll play this season is a big blow. End the gender pay gap and give these athletes a helping hand.