Toronto Maple Leafs Look to Continue Hot Streak Against Panthers

Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are riding high into Sunrise after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won five straight games since losing to the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 on March 26th. Those wins? Florida, Boston, Winnipeg, Philadelphia and Tampa.

The Leafs have two more games on this road trip: tonight’s contest against Florida and then they will head to Texas to play the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

Florida is a tough out, particularly on the back half of a back to back on the road. They’re still missing Aaron Ekblad, so their defense is looking, shall we say, sub-par.

Personally, I would want the defenseman I traded a first round pick for on the first pair, but that’s just me.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Florida Panthers

Despite the lack of presence on the back end, the Panthers are still stacked up front. Beware that top six. The Leafs have looked much better in the defensive zone since acquiring Giordano, so this is the part of the game Leafs fans should be looking at the closest.

I had one big question for the Leafs  roster after the trade deadline: can the goaltending turn it around? The answer since Jack Campbell returned? A resounding yes. Campbell has looked closer to the Soup Leafs fans know and love, particularly last night against Tampa.

He won’t start for the Leafs tonight. The duty will fall to Erik Kallgren.

Kallgren hasn’t posted an above .900 save percentage since March 17th against Carolina. He’s allowed three goals in each of his last three starts. Kallgren needs to be better for this team down the stretch. Campbell has looked good thus far, but the Leafs need a dependable backup goalie when Campbell needs a rest. Who better to assert yourself against than the best offensive team in the league?

Auston Matthews and the Leafs Blue Line

Auston Matthews is the best goal scorer in hockey. The guy can score from absolutely anywhere. After last night’s hat trick, Matthews is leading the league in goals with 54 on the year with Leon Draisaitl in second at 50.

Matthews has been on an absolute heater as of late. He’s scored 47 goals in his last 47 games. He’s not only on pace to be the first 60-goal scorer since Stamkos in 2012, he’s on pace to do even more.

Jake Muzzin will possibly play tonight. We do not have a definitive answer as of the time of this writing. He is apparently a game time decision. Muzzin’s return raises a question: who do the Leafs bench?

As this site has repeatedly pointed oout, Timothy Liljegren should not be benched.

So that leaves Justin Holl and Ilya Lyubushkin.

Lyubushkin brings physicality the Leafs hadn’t had in years and he sparked the team when that trade went through. The Russian Bear’s place is on Morgan Rielly’s right side.

That leaves Justin Holl.

The much-maligned defenseman has improved since being paired with T.J. Brodie. He’s done everything the Leafs have asked of him and has fought threw injury to stay on the ice. Sadly, I believe he will be the odd man out.

In other injury/illness related news, William Nylander is a game time decision as well.

Next. Rielly Silencing Critics. dark

With Aaron Ekblad still on LTIR and the Leafs likely shuffling their D-pairs, expect a high scoring contest tonight. If the Leafs win in regulation tonight, they will be four points ahead of Tampa and five points behind Florida. Boston plays the Detroit Red Wings tonight so if Steve Yzerman’s squad steal a win there, The Leafs would be four points ahead of them as well with a win tonight.