Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Watch on: Sportsnet Ontario, TVA Sports, Fox Sports Sun,

Opponent’s site: Raw Charge

We’re at the game five mark of the 2019-20 season, and the Maple Leafs are sporting a 2-1-0-1 record against a mixed bag of opponents including last years Stanley Cup champions, and tonight they take on a team many people (incorrectly) picked to win the Stanley Cup last year, but was eliminated as quickly as possible from the playoffs.

Toronto Maple Leafs Lines

Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Kasperi Kapanen - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev - Alexander Kerfoot - Trevor Moore
Nic Petan - Jason Spezza - Frederik Gauthier
Dmytro Timashov - Nick Shore

Morgan Rielly - Cody Ceci
Jake Muzzin - Tyson Barrie
Rasmus Sandin - Justin Holl
Martin Marincin

Frederik Andersen
Michael Hutchinson

All the of the Leafs that started the year are still healthy, which is the bare minimum you would want this early into the season. Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott are still on track to rejoin the team in November, giving coaches and management more time to rotate through depth players and see who they want to do cap magic to keep on the team when the two players come off IR.

One thing the team should continue to work on is their special team results. The Leafs are getting middling results from the PP (15th) and the PK (13th). It’s very early, but more work for items that were a bit of a liability last season is needed.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

From yesterdays practice

Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Mathieu Joseph - Tyler Johnson - Yanni Gourde
Pat Maroon - Carter Verhaeghe - Luke Witkowski

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Curtis McElhinney

There are two notes about this lineup:

One, Brayden Point is, of course, making his season debut against the Maple Leafs after the Lightning took their sweet time getting a key RFA signed - and signed for like, five minutes, at that. Hopefully he’s nice and rusty. He’s coming off hip surgery, so he may be slower than normal. I hope.

Second, I do have to say I’m happy to see the Lightning have their lineup full of the young kids that I watched in junior. I saw Joseph, Cirelli, and Cernak at the Memorial Cup in Windsor and of course Carter Verharglewarble was captain of my Niagara IceDogs.

What’s the narrative?

Whether you watch just for the game or not, there’s always a story being pushed. Tonight’s is a tale of a skilled team that just can’t get it done. The Lightning are 1-1-1 after three games and are at the start of a losing streak, having lost to the Florida Panthers on Friday and then to the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime on Saturday. Getting to overtime in the Hurricanes game was somewhat of a miracle from McElhinney as the Hurricanes out shot the Lightning 42-13, with the Lightning only getting TWO SHOTS in the third period and NO SHOTS in the second.

Stamkos did the captain thing by calling out his team on Saturday: “We keep falling back into the same old bad habits that we’ve been doing, that cost us the season we had last year. Unless we change things, it’s going to be a really, really, really long year.” He’s a hero to some for doing so, but really, it’s a bit of a canned quote for an under-performing team.

Leafs-wise, there’s no real narrative going on, but as we wait for Dermott and Hyman to come back all eyes are on Marincin, Holl, Shore, Timashov, and Petan as they fight for their long term roles with the Leafs.

Who’s coming back?

Every team has a Maple Leafs connection, these are the ex-Leafs who could be at tonight’s game.

Carter Verhaeghe was a 2013 third round pick of the Maple Leafs, coming off a 44 point season (most of those points were on the powerplay) with the Niagara IceDogs, and was traded to the Islanders before he turned pro. He was the first kid I ever bothered with my questions and I’m happy he’s finally in the NHL.

Curtis McElhinney was the Leafs back up goalie for the 2017-18 season, and was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes before the start of the 18-19 season.

Jean-Philippe Côté was a Maple Leafs 9th round pick in the 2000 draft, but went unsigned. He’s now the Director of Player Development for the Lightning.

The Leafs are a very good team on their own, but hopefully the return of Point throws the Lightning into disarray and team that played the Hurricanes shows up.

Yeah, competitiveness is good, but so is beating down a divisional opponent.

Go Leafs Go!