The Toronto Maple Leafs tied up home-advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last night, but should be very concerned about a surging Tampa team.
While it’s not confirmed yet that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be facing Tampa in the first round, it’d take them losing their remaining two games to let Boston in.
Given their form lately, that seems to be highly unlikely, especially when you add in the fact their final two opponents are the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders; both teams that have nothing left to play for.
Right now, their form should leave the Leafs a little concerned. Hopefully, they can focus any trepidation or fear and turn it into positive energy though.
Toronto Maple Leafs Might’ve Drawn the Short Straw
The Toronto Maple Leafs, when you look at the fact their likely play-off opponent are the reigning two-time champions, have truly drawn the short straw.
They’re likely facing a team that’s outscored them 16-12 across the two team’s four encounters this season. Just that fact alone makes them one of the toughest opponents to be facing off against. However, when you start looking at their recent form, they’re an even scarier prospect.
Since going down 6-2 to none other than the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first game of April, they’ve only lost twice in regulation time and once in overtime.
What’s more since that defeat to the Leafs, they’ve scored 49 goals in just 11 games, averaging 4.45 goals per game over that span.
They haven’t just been facing bottom dwellers in that time either. They put 6 goals over the Nashville Predators, 7 over the Winnipeg Jets and 8 over both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers.
Hart Trophy candidate Auston Matthews of course became the newest member of the 60-goal season club versus Detroit; the most recent name prior to him was Steven Stamkos a decade ago.
He himself though just joined a club of his own; the 100-point one. He has been on an absolute surge with 21 points in his last 7 games, while Nikita Kucherov has been equally as impressive with 20 points in his last 7.
The three-headed monster is rearing it’s ugly head too with Victor Hedman on 14 points in his last 6 games (all statistics per Frozen Pool).
That trio is scary enough on it’s own, let alone when it’s firing all cylinders. Absolutely, the Toronto Maple Leafs should be concerned at the prospect of facing them.
Thankfully, the other standout elite performer on the Tampa Bay team, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t in perfect form right now. Through April, he’s put up his worst save percentage and worst goals-against-average through any month this season.
Of course, if the Toronto Maple Leafs can take Tampa’s 8-1 beat-up of backup goalie Erik Kallgren and turn that into locker-room ammunition to do much much better, they’re in a good spot.
Likewise, they have proven that the Lightning are not infallible when defeating them 6-2 with their regular starting goalies in net recently.
It all boils down to one simple fact – to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. The Toronto Maple Leafs have to overcome possibly one of the hardest first-round hurdles this season.