For the second postseason in a row, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs will meet in the first-round series. Last season, the Maple Leafs went out in front of the Lightning and had two chances to win the series. They did not.
This regular season, the Maple Leafs played much better than the Lightning. As a result, they are favored to win their opening-round playoff series against Tampa Bay. That said, there’s no reason to expect that the series will be easy. The Lightning team is just too experienced and has too many good players.
Still, the Maple Leafs have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs in seven consecutive attempts. Even among die-hard Maple Leafs’ fans, the team has earned a “choke” label. Is this the year for the Maple Leafs to finally break their postseason drought?
What the Lightning Need to Do to Win the Series
In the following conversation, host Jim Parsons welcomes in Peter Baracchini and Jim Bay to discuss the upcoming series between the Maple Leafs and the Lightning. In this video, they discuss the keys for both teams to win the series.
Jim Bay discusses what the Lightning needs to do to win the series. He suggests the team must do two things to beat Toronto. First, they need to reduce the number of turnovers they commit during a game. This season, he suggests, these turnovers have led to odd-man rushes and shorthanded goals against them.
Second, Bay suggests they must decrease the high-danger chances they give up in their own end. These chances put a lot of pressure on their goalie and reduce their chances of winning games. Bay notes that, even with a great goaltender as good as Andrei Vasilevskiy, giving up too many high-danger chances is unsustainable over a seven-game playoff series. Therefore, the Lightning must focus on limiting turnovers and reducing high-danger chances if they hope to beat the Maple Leafs.
What the Maple Leafs Need to Do to Win the Series
Peter Baracchini also suggests that there are two keys to victory for the Maple Leafs over the Lightning. First, the Maple Leafs (also) need to focus on limiting turnovers and having good puck management. Baracchini suggests that, at times, the team’s defense has been prone to mistakes.
Second, the Maple Leafs must find and exploit a weakness in Vasilevskiy. According to Baracchini, Vasilevskiy seems to have an issue on his blocker side. Recent analytics suggest that Vasilevsky’s save percentage on mid to high-blocker side shots is not as strong as it could be. The goal would be for the Maple Leafs to fire shots at that area and create traffic in front of the net.
However, Baracchini’s final comment is that the Maple Leafs cannot take Vasilevsky’s overall performance lightly. He’s known for playing exceptionally well in big moments such as the playoffs.
Ultimately, the Maple Leafs need to focus on managing their mistakes and finding ways to expose Vasilevsky’s weaknesses while remaining aware of his strengths.
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