The Tampa Bay Lightning team is about as close to an NHL dynasty as we’ve had over the past five seasons. Interestingly, however, as the Toronto Maple Leafs head into the postseason, they are slight favorites to win their playoff series against the Lightning. Although Tampa Bay has experienced success in recent seasons, the Lightning have struggled this season.
Related: 4 Keys the Maple Leafs Must Address to Beat the Lightning
Can the Lightning Simply Flip the Switch?
There might be reasons to explain Tampa Bay’s recent struggles. Perhaps they’ve been saving their best until the postseason. However, on the other hand, perhaps what you see with the Lightning is just what they will show come the postseason.
Whatever arguments can be made on either side, all the narratives disappear once the playoffs begin. As fans will hear over and over, the postseason is a different animal. And that’s probably true. The other thing that’s apparent is that the Lightning can win. They’ve proved it for three seasons in succession.
But are the Lightning capable of competing as they have in the past, for a fourth season in a row?
Were the Lightning Complacent During the Regular Season?
It might be that Tampa Bay was complacent during the regular season because of their recent success. They could simply flip the switch and come out flying. They certainly have some great players.
However, it might also be that there’s no switch to flip. What fans have seen during the regular season is exactly what the Lightning can bring. If that’s the case, it will give Toronto an advantage.
It’s also notable that Tampa Bay has lost some key contributors from last season’s team. The Maple Leafs have had the stronger lineup all season, and they might just have the stronger lineup with the postseason begins.
One thing that’s for certain, this is the year that the Maple Leafs really need to beat the Lightning.
Related: Keys to Winning Round One for the Lightning & the Maple Leafs
The Argument for Toronto Might Really Be the Argument Against the Lighting
The argument for Toronto getting into the second round is that they have a really good team this year. With that team, they have the potential to break their playoff curse. Yes, Tampa Bay might be a tough opponent. However, the truth is that they haven’t been playing particularly well for the past two months.
Additionally, the fact is that Tampa Bay is an older team. They have played a lot of hockey this year. Could that fact also work in Toronto’s favor?
Can the Maple Leafs Beat All-World Andrei Vasilevskiy?
Toronto has a big disadvantage. The Lightning have Andrei Vasilevskiy in their net. And, on paper, that seems to be a mismatch. He’s all-world at this time of the season. There have been few playoff goalies with as much success – ever.
That said, Ilya Samsonov has had his best season – ever. He’s been great five-on-five. He stops high-danger chances better than any other NHL goalie. He seems to have swagger. While he once was better at home than on the road, that’s evened out.
Can the Maple Leafs’ Core Four Lead Them?
At the same time, the Maple Leafs have a Core Four that has proven to be strong this season. All four are better than point-a-game players. Both William Nylander and Auston Matthews have scored 40 goals. Mitch Marner has had his best season ever with 99 points. John Tavares is still going strong, leading the NHL with 18 power-play markers.
All these facts suggest that the Maple Leafs have a strong-enough team to overcome whatever the Lightning can throw at them. This could be the year that Toronto finally gets to the second round after years of disappointment.
Related: IS THIS THE SEASON THE MAPLE LEAFS BEAT THE LIGHTING: IF SO, HOW?
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April 16, 2023 at 8:04 am
I don’t think you can flick a switch. You might hope you can but not over several games. I think the Lightning are what they’ve shown – a great team that is somewhat depleted from the past and a little worn down from the slog of the last three seasons. This doesn’t preclude Vasilevskiy from stealing a series, by the way, which you wisely point out OP. My biggest fear at this point is embarrassment for the Leafs. I’ll explain. I think they are a very, very good team. I even think they can beat Tampa in five or six. To me, the key failure, and frankly embarrassment for fans, the team, management and city of Toronto for that matter, could come from what happens after a first-round victory. Will everyone celebrate too much? Will everyone secretly hope they’ve demonstrated enough hard work to put that rung in their belts and smugly move forward as if they’ve actually accomplished something? The Boston Bruins can be beat, if you’re committed. At this point, beating Tampa is small potatoes. Shame on anyone who overstates the success of that if, and when, it happens.
April 16, 2023 at 8:43 am
The Lightning have a defense that can be beat, they have 2 good defensemen and the others make mistakes in coverage leading to high danger chances. The Leafs to beat Tampa have to take advantage of poer play opportunities and don’t retaliate so refs send 2 player’s to the box. The referees in this series will be a big consideration for who wins the series.
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