For the second straight year, one of the marquee match ups of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will take place in the first round when the Toronto Maple Leafs will face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Atlantic division rivals Boston had a historic record setting season, leaving this rematch of last years first round feel inevitable. The only business that was left to be determined from December on was which of these teams would secure home ice. Toronto accomplished that officially with just shy of two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Now that the regular season has concluded and we are on the cusp of the first round series to commence tonight. It’s time to take a comprehensive deep dive on how these two teams stack up against one another.
Toronto secured second in the Atlantic with a record of 50-21-11 good for 111 points. This was good enough to land the Maple Leafs at fourth best record in the league. Meanwhile Tampa Bay sported a record of 46-30-6 amounting 98 points to land them the third spot in the Atlantic division and 13th overall in the NHL. Head to head Toronto won the season series against Tampa Bay with a record of 2-0-1. Toronto outscored Tampa 11 – 8 in the three games.
Both teams have high powered offences as both teams finished in the top ten in league scoring. Only four goals seperated them as Tampa finished eighth overall in the NHL for goals for with 283. Toronto ranked tenth with 279. The goals against on the other hand is where Toronto reigns over Tampa. Toronto ranks fifth overall with 222 goals against. Tampa sits 14th with 254 goals against. (all stats courtesy of hockey-reference.com)
Faceoffs was once again a strength for Toronto, they finished fourth overall with 53.1% . Tampa Bay was 11th in the league with a 51.6%.
Toronto and Tampa were neck in next when it comes to the power play as Toronto finished second overall with a 26% PP efficiency, while Tampa ranked third at a 25.4% clip. The penalty kill the Maple Leafs hold an edge as they finished 11th in the league with 81.9% while Tampa Bay secured the 15th spot with a 79.7% PK efficiency.
This series is packed full of top tier talent. Both teams boast some of the elite superstars of the game. Tampa is led by Hedman, Kucherov, Vasilevsky, Point and Stamkos. Toronto of course has the likes of Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander and Morgan Rielly and pre-deadline acquisition Ryan O’Rielly. The stars will need to shine for either team to come out on top. Tampa’s stars have shown in the past what they can do. Toronto will need the big boys to lead the way for them. But looking at the head to head comparison of the top five of each team you can see both teams have had the stars shine for them. Toronto trails Tampa in the goals for per game but a small margin. Toronto comes in with a 3.39 goals for average compared to Tampa Bay with a 3.41 average per game.
Marner – 30 G 69 A 99 PTS
Nylander – 40 G 47 A 87 PTS
Matthews – 40 G 45 A 85 PTS
Tavares – 36 G 44 A 80 PTS
Bunting – 23 G 26 A 49 PTS
Kucherov – 30 G 83 A 113 PTS
Point – 51 G 44 A 95 PTS
Stamkos – 34 G 50 A 84 PTS
Hagel – 30 G 34 A 64 PTS
Kilorn – 27 G 37 A 64 PTS
As you can see both teams had significant contributions from the top players on their rosters each team boasting four players scoring at least 30 goals. Toronto’s biggest deadline acquistion Ryan O’Rielly was impactful in his limited action as he missed a significant amount due to a hand injury. However in 13 games played O’Reilly scored 4 goals, 7 assists for 11 points. Tampa’s main deadline addition Tanner Jeannot had 1 goal and 3 assists for 4 points in 20 games played but was injured late in the regular season but is expected to miss the start of the first round.
Goaltending as we know has been one of the strengths of the Lightning as Andrei Vasilevskiy has backstopped Tampa to three straight Stanley Cup Finals winning two the three appearances. Toronto enters this years rematch with a completely different tandem in net compared to last year. Ilya Samsonov will start for the Maple Leafs with Joseph Woll as his back up. Matt Murray is currently recovering from a head injury with no timetable for his return. However is making some progress as he has resumed skating with the team at the end of last week. But at this time he will be third on Toronto’s depth chart. With all of this said at, on the surface you would give Tampa the advantage in this department. Most years I would agree given the track record. However, this year especially in the later stages of the season Vasilevskiy has looked very pedestrian.
|Overall: 50-21-11 .913 S% 2.56 GAA 5 SO||Overall: 46-30-6 .909 S% 2.85 GAA 6 SO|
|Samsonov -27-10-5 .919 S% 2.33 GAA 4 SO|
Murray – 14-8-2 .903 S% 3.01 GAA 1 SO
Woll – 6-1-1 .932 S% 2.16 GAA 0 SO
Kallgren – 3-2-4 .898 S% 2.67 GAA 0 SO
| Vasilevskiy – 34-22-4 .915 S% 2.65 GAA 4 SO|
Elliot – 12-8-2 .891 S% 3.40 GAA 2 SO
Statistically the teams match up very closely. Toronto has a slight edge overall. The tandem of Samsonov and Woll have looked good in the final stretch of the regular season even with some team playing more lacked defensively in front of them in the last couple games. Tampa on the other prior to the 5-0 victory against Detroit to close out the regular season had given up at least 4 goals against in the previous four games, including a 7 spot and a pair of back to back 6 goal against performances. If Toronto’s high octane offense gets rolling Tampa could be in real trouble. As Toronto holds the advantage defensively holding opponents to a 2.68 goals against this season compared to Tampa’s 3.07 goals against a game. The stars for the two clubs cancel each other out.
Going purely by the stats alone. Toronto holds the advantage therefore should, and that is the key word they should win the series. However given the cloud that hangs over that they haven’t been able to get from under. There is always that sense of doubt. This years edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been built different then previous renditions of the roster. There is something to be said about that. Also given that they ended the regular season on a four game win start with a lot of unusual situations including a revolving door of ATO goaltenders playing as temporary solutions as a back up given the cap constraints that left the Maple Leafs playing shorthanded on some nights with improvised lineups that saw rarely used defensemen Connor Timmins playing forward to fill a void in the roster as they couldn’t call anyone up. This only seemed to help build more character for this club. While Tampa sputtered down the stretch losing four of the last five games.
That being said, everyone starts back at zero. Tonight is the beginning of what should be some must see TV. These two clubs have history and if the last match up just eight days prior to puck drop of this series is any indication. It will be a war. I along with the rest of the hockey world will be excited to tune into this one. When it is all said and I done one team will move on and the other will be left with a lot of questions. Tonight is when we will start getting some answers. Buckle up Leafs Nation and the hockey world. It’s about to get good.
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