The Tampa Bay Lighting (13-15-1) are in town to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-2).
The other day, Randy Carlyle called the Leafs’ inability to initiate clean breakouts and avoid getting hemmed in their own zone “the big mystery with this group.” He’s taken steps toward resolving it with the addition of both John Michael-Liles and Jake Gardiner to the lineup, who will apparently play together on a pairing tonight as the defence takes a shape much closer to what many armchair coaches were penciling together before the season. It will be interesting to see how the pair affect the breakout and overall puck movement off the backend. Gardiner will also look to inject some life into a powerplay that’s 0 for its last 19.
Speaking of interesting quotes from the other day, Dave Nonis was asked if the Leafs were in the midst of a downfall akin to last season, with his team currently on a 0-3-2 skid. Nonis said, “The one difference I would draw – I just went over the last 5 games – I think there was only one game where we weren’t happy with the performance and the effort. Last year, when things were going poorly, were were unhappy with the effort a lot more than that.” So let’s hope that translates into an upturn in results before the Leafs play their way out of the playoff picture.
The Leafs were hurt by an off outing from Ben Scrivens in their last meeting with the Lightning. Facing their first non-playoff opponent in five games, this is also a good time to get their first win in five games. James Reimer gets the start.
Liles and Gardiner form the second pairing, with Kostka remaining in the press box for the third straight game. Phaneuf and Gunnarsson will be tasked with the Stamkos and St. Louis head-to-head. Vinny Lecavalier is out with a broken foot.
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Toronto Maple Leafs Line-up vs Tampa Bay Lighting, March 20th, 2013
Alexander Ovechkin might be a more frightening sight coming down the left wing, Sidney Crosby may be the best player in the world, Pavel Datsyuk might be the most complete player in the NHL but as it stands now, nobody is a greater goalscoring threat than a 20 year old kid from Unionville, Ontario. His name – Steven Stamkos.
As much as Alex Ovechkin might be offended by this notion it is absolutely true. Ovechkin has, looking at the overall skillset, more natural talent, arguably because of a physical game that is a bit better than that part of Stamkosâ€™ game. But, when comparing their speed, defensive play, power play contributions, offensive play and shot there are a good number of things going Stevenâ€™s way.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have become a team of inconsistency. In their quest to finish higher than last season, Toronto has rushed into certain games with speed and tenacity, while in others they have dwindled and failed to produce a single point. Over the last four weeks, the latter seems to have become the new identity of the team. Recently, the only true star the team possesses is one Jonas Gustavsson, but when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Steven Stamkos stroll into town for their second meeting of the season, the Leafs will have to be better than good.
The Toronto Maple Leafs kick off a brief tour of the Sunshine State when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow. Unfortunately for both clubs, their offensive capabilities have been absent from the hockey party as of late and each are on a losing streak (Leafs – 5 games, Lightning – 3 games). Tampa Bay has only scored four goals in their last three games, while the Leafs have recently put together a pair of shootout losses and have 8 goals in their last three games but have been unable to play a solid full 60 minutes to earn the victories. They will look to improve on that effort tonight.