The Toronto Maple Leafs Get Rielly Back for Biggest Game of the Season

Apr 1, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) celebrates with
Apr 1, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) celebrates with / Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs will play their biggest game of the season tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning are 100% guaranteed to make the playoffs, even if they haven't officially clinched yet.

While the playoffs are a sure-thing, where the Leafs finish and who they play are still up in the air. Due to a recent hot-streak by Tampa, who are 8-1-1 in their last ten, the Leafs may yet fall to a wild-card position.

Though it would perhaps be an easier matchup to play against the Rangers or Hurricanes, rather than Florida, Tampa or Boston, the humiliation of being a wild-card team when you were expected to compete for the President's Trophy isn't worth the microscopically easier series.

And therefore tonight's game is perhaps the most important one of the season.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning

After losing to Tampa due to a game-six officiating error three years ago, and beating them last year, the Leafs won their first two games against the Lightning this season, in overtime.

Bizarrely, they haven't played each other since November but will play twice in the final eight games of the season.

The Leafs have a six point lead, so they should be able to hold off the Lightning, but a win tonight would all but assure the Leafs stay out of the wild-card spot.

Morgan Rielly will rejoin the Leafs after missing the last few games and forcing the team to dress an absolute abomination of a blue-line.

Mitch Marner will not yet be back in the lineup. It does not look like Timothy Liljegren will be either.

The Leafs have had to play both of their last two games without two of their three best defenseman, and since their healthiest blue-line is still kind of bad, it's amazing they won both games.

They also don't have Joel Edmundson, although that may secretly be helping them.

The Leafs will start Joseph Woll tonight, which is another indication that he is their choice for the playoffs. Not only did he start both games against Boston last month, but he played three games in a row last week, and now gets the crease for the team's biggest game of the year.

While its true that Samsonov did start against Florida, he was also coming off of a shut-out against the Sabres the game before. The Leafs would be well advised to just pick a goalie - Woll, obviously - and play him as much as they can before the season is out.


As for tonight, this goes without saying, but it's a must-win game.