If there was ever a time that the Leafs would want to play Steve Stamkos and the Lightning, tonight is it. Tampa Bay has dropped 6 of their last 7 games, and collected just 4 points since the start of March, going 1-4-2. The Leafs, coming off of a huge win over Buffalo on Saturday, should be brimming with confidence and ready to answer the bell.
The Bolts have owned Toronto this season, winning all three games, although the Leafs did manage to collect a point in the teams’ previous meeting at the ACC. The Leafs were outscored 6-0 in Tampa Bay, but will have to hope that Phil “Mr. Streaky” Kessel will be back on a roll after scoring his first goal in five games to down the Sabres over the weekend. The Buds are 17-3-2 when Kessel scores, and, not coincidentally, the Leafs’ best streaks of play have come when he consistently lights the lamp. A strong finish to the season from him is a must if the Leafs are to have any hope of making the playoffs.
Speaking of the playoffs, Toronto could really use a win tonight (understatement of the year, I know), especially given the fact that all the teams directly around them in the standings play each other tomorrow night. The Thrashers and Devils, both hot on the Buds’ heels, will play in Jersey, while the Hurricanes travel to Buffalo. Whoever wins either game will gain and/or pull away from the inactive Leafs, so a win tonight would be huge. Let’s just hope both games don’t go into overtime.