The Toronto Maple Leafs will face off tonight against the Florida Panthers in the second round of the NHL playoffs. On the face of it, that the Maple Leafs are meeting the Panthers and not the Bruins is a huge surprise. Who on Earth expected Florida to pull off such an upset?
Yet, that’s just what the Panthers did. It was one of the biggest upsets in recent NHL playoff history. And, if they can do it against the President’s Trophy-Winning Bruins, they certainly can do it against the Maple Leafs as well.
The Maple Leafs will need to bring their A-game to prevent another such upset.
In the video below, Sportsnet’s Justin Bourne joined Evanka Osmak on Sportsnet Central to discuss the upcoming series and what Toronto needs to do to come out on top.
Key Points Made By Bourne
Key Point One: Matthew Tkachuk Is Not the Only Issue the Maple Leafs Must Worry About
In preparing for their Round 2 against the Panthers, the big question on many fans’ minds is who the team needs to shut down to prevent an upset. Sportsnet’s Bourne suggests that, although Panthers’ forward Matthew Tkachuk is a big part of their game, the team can’t overlook someone like Aleksander Barkov.
Key Point Two: If the Maple Leafs Can Take Care of Their Own Business, Things Will Be Alright
Bourne also stresses how important it is that the Maple Leafs worry first about their own strategy and game plan. Toronto needs to focus on shutting down their opponents’ best players while making sure their own best players are performing at their best.
Bourne noted that head coach Sheldon Keefe mixed up the lineup in Game 6 of the Tampa Bay Lightning series, and that proved successful. Bourne believes the Maple Leafs have good depth in their defense, which should be an advantage going forward.
Key Point Three: Ilya Samsonov Is a Key to the Maple Leafs’ Success
When it comes to goaltending, Bourne believes Ilya Samsonov is going to be the X factor for the Maple Leafs. He notes that they’ll need him to be successful if they are to move on. He noted how different Samsonov played earlier in the series in Game 1 compared to how well he played during the Game 6.
If Samsonov can continue to play that well, the Maple Leafs should prevail. If Samsonov has a strong series, the Maple Leafs likely will as well. He can make that big a difference in the net.
Key Point Four: Panthers’ Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky Is Strong, But He’s Not Andrei Vasilevskiy
As for the Panthers’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, Bourne isn’t that worried. While Bobrovsky has been a part of a couple of upsets in the past, Bourne believes other goaltenders in the league are more intimidating. Bourne didn’t mention Andrei Vasilevskiy per se. However, it’s obvious the Maple Leafs beat quality by making the Lightning goalie look human.
Key Point Five: The Maple Leafs Shouldn’t Overthink Their Round 2 Opponents
In the end, Bourne emphasized that the Maple Leafs simply need to focus on their own game plan. They should not overthink their opponents. If they can shut down their opponents’ best players (which they did well against the Lightning) and create a game plan where their own best players perform at their best, they can stave off an upset from the Panthers.
As the series gets underway, Maple Leafs’ fans will eagerly watch to see if their team can rise to the challenge. If they can, the Maple Leafs should be able to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
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