Toronto Maple Leafs @ Tampa Bay Lightning
07:30 PM at Amalie Arena
Watch on: TBS, CBC, TVAS, SNE, SNO, SNP, BSSUNX
With the series at two games to one in the Leafs' favour, Tampa cannot take back home ice advantage with a win. If the Leafs win, they take a one-game-wins-it series home to Toronto.
Erik Cernak has been ruled out for this game, so that's very likely a concussion he's suffering from. Victor Hedman had a meaningful impact in game three, so whatever is ailing him was tolerable, and we should expect him to play again. Brayden Point is a game time decision but "likely to play" per reports. Jon Cooper has not (because playoffs) clearly defined how injured Point is. Something more than wind knocked out of him but not a head injury is my best guess.
In game three, tampa controlled the play well, shot poorly and stirred up a lot of post-whistle nonsense. That's who they are. No reason not to expect two of the three to happen again.
Gabby Shirley via Daily Faceoff from the last game.
Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Ross Colton - Nick Paul - Tanner Jeannot
Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Édouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Nicklaus Perbix
Mikhail Sergachev - Darren Raddysh
Ian Cole - Zach Bogosian
There is, again, no reason for Sheldon Keefe to change the Leafs lines or roster going into this game. He would be a fool to touch that third line, so the only possible tweaks are to the top six left wings or some switch on defence.
The forward changes can happen in-game, and look for the William Nylander at top line left wing to happen more if the Leafs need to score. There were also some lines with Matthew Knies on the top six and Ryan O'Reilly moving up last time.
As for the defence, there's an argument to be made that Erik Gustafsson or Timothy Liljegren should get out of the press box. Liljegren and his transition game has a lot of fans – also he doesn't hit people so he must be good. However, I don't see Keefe taking out Luke Schenn. He's been effective at what he's there for, and he's also made some nice passes in from the point offensively – not as good as Liljegren, but good enough. He makes mistakes with the puck in transition – Liljegren can't defend. It's more of a wash than almost anyone wants to admit. The main difference is Schenn is never getting better at hockey and Liljegren still gives off a cloud of hopium whenever he's on the ice – likely deserved.
NHL coaches are generally immune to hopium. Keefe likes to keep things as game time decisions and adds extra players to warmups, but I don't expect a big switch up.
Calle Järnkrok - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Alex Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander
Matthew Knies - Ryan O'Reilly - Noel Acciari
Zach Aston-Reese - David Kämpf - Sam Lafferty
Jake McCabe - TJ Brodie
Mark Giordano - Justin Holl
Morgan Rielly - Luke Schenn
The truism is that the fourth win is the hardest to get. The Leafs sure seem to be the proof of concept of that one, but to beat the Lightning twice in a row in their own barn seems to require them to lie down and die, or else some really unlikely random luck to put the puck in their net a lot. Maybe the fourth game will be the hardest one in this series.
Can the Leafs beat them tonight? Sure. Will they? Maybe I'm being too realistic in my outlook. Maybe they have the burning desire to go out there and dominate the game for 60 minutes and take the series over. But that sounds like the story of the Hurricanes and the Islanders, not this more evenly matched contest.
Samsonov's best game would help a lot. Someone other than Ryan O'Reilly buzzing the net would also be good, although it's hard to complain about Auston Matthews bearing up strong under the line matching of Jon Cooper, something O'Reilly's line struggled with last time out. As for the rest of the game within a game:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
I'd pay money to watch a Blueprint of Sheldon Keefe reading Kipling to the team. I'm also pretty sure I've said this before about the Leafs vs the Lightning.
Go Leafs Go. Keep your head, but don't get too calm.