Florida Panthers @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: SN, TVAS, BSFL

The Leafs last game was away on March 30 against the Buffalo Sabres, which Toronto won by a score of 3-0 in regulation. The Leafs have a record of 42-22-9 for a 0.637 Points %.

The Florida Panthers last played at home on March 30 against the Detroit Red Wings. The Panthers won by a score of 3-2 in a shootout, and their current league record is 47-22-5 for a 0.669 Points %.


Well, the Panthers. They're a real team, right, and the Leafs aren't. I think the "every silver lining has a deep dark cloud around it" segment of fandom is sure of this. Watch them. They win, and you don't see all those mistakes the Leafs make. It's an education packed into three hours of watching a team you don't have any emotional stake in.

I'll be honest, I haven't watched them. Okay, I have, because the Leafs played them back in the fall, but these games left no impression on me. Looking them up, I see classic NHL hockey results. In October the Leafs played a fantastic game, dominated the puck, put up real offence against a "shots from the perimeter" offence from the Panthers, and they lost 3-1. Ilya Samsonov was on the job.

In November the Panthers dominated the puck, but still produced low-quality offence and the Leafs won in a shootout. Joe Woll made time for the shootout.

This is how hockey works in a single game. And this is why playoff series need to be long. The difference between a season, a series and a game is profound. But the only clue we have to how a game will go is how the seasons have gone. And when you string seven individual weird-prone games together and you get a result not consistent with the season level, that's the catalyst for "in the playoffs when it's different".

But here we are with one game to play and one opponent to try to understand. Who are the Panthers at the season level?

They are possession masters. They are second only to the Hurricanes in Corsi % at five-on-five. There were clues in those Leafs games that they give away some of their domination in low quality offence for and high quality allowed. I'm going to compare them to a surprising team (at five-on-five) – the Buffalo Sabres. They have so much more talent that their systemic weaknesses aren't debilitating, though.

There are three teams with extremely good power plays by Expected Goals: the Panthers, the Wild and the Oilers. Only the Oilers actually score at an extremely good rate. The Panthers just don't. And while they have excellent forwards, they don't quite have what the Oilers have. This brings their power play down to the equal of the Leafs – the real one, not whatever that horror show is we get right now.

And of course, the other thing the Panthers have is goaltending. They've had 23 exceptional starts from Anthony Stolarz – like the Leafs did with Martin Jones. But the grand champion of flaky goalies, Sergei Bobrovsky, was 100% solid all year. He's not a top goalie, but he's better than average enough that the Panthers have the second-best Save % in the NHL.

They aren't a juggernaut with no flaws. But the weaknesses they have are hard to exploit. Not impossible, just hard.

The Panthers are two points behind the Bruins, and five behind the Rangers. It's likely first in the east is out of reach, but first in the Atlantic isn't so they have a point to prove tonight beyond just beating the Leafs.


Jameson Olive at today's morning skate. He only listed the forwards, so defence is from the last game. There was a fifth forward line as well, so consider this all subject to change.

Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Sam Reinhart
Evan Rodrigues - Sam Bennett - Matthew Tkachuk
Eetu Luostarinen - Anton Lundell - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jonah Gadjovich - Kevin Stenlund - Ryan Lomberg

Gustav Forsling - Aaron Ekblad
Niko Mikkola - Brandon Montour
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Dmitry Kulikov

Sergei Bobrovsky
Anthony Stolarz


The extra defender is back, meaning Mitch Marner is not yet ready to return to action. He is now eligible to be activated from LTIR whenever he is ready to play. Both Marner and Morgan Rielly were seen at the optional skate this morning, so the power play might get less horrible soon. Not today, though. Sheldon Keefe said the lineup would stay the same.


Mark Masters via Daily Faceoff from the last game.

Tyler Bertuzzi - Auston Matthews - Max Domi
Bobby McMann - John Tavares - William Nylander
Matthew Knies - Pontus Holmberg - Nicholas Robertson
Connor Dewar - David Kämpf - Ryan Reaves

Simon Benoit - Jake McCabe
T.J. Brodie - Ilya Lyubushkin
Mark Giordano - Conor Timmins

Joe Woll
Ilya Samsonov - confirmed starter

The Game

Er. Yeah, cool.

The game will be weird in some way. We'll have to watch it to find out how.