After a game in which the Leafs sat back, tried to limit the damage and relied on the counterattack against Boston, tonight you hope to see the Leafs exhibit spells of dominance against the 30th-placed Florida Panthers. It’s a back to back scenario with travel in between, but we would love to see some killer instinct out of the Leafs knowing the state of the opponent and the importance of the two points.
Picking up three of four points against Boston is pretty massive as far as the playoff picture is concerned, and the Leafs are closing in on their goal if you break it down into the number of wins needed over their final 15. Wins in their two Florida games could put them in a situation where they only need to win five of their other games to end the playoff drought. As of today’s standings, the Leafs are ahead of 11 of their 15 remaining opponents. Granted, the Rangers (x2), Devils (x2) and Flyers are among that group as it stands and all have the ability to catch fire down the final stretch.
The Panthers have only won two games against playoff opposition this season – the Jets once and the Penguins once. By a considerable margin they are the worst team in the league in goals against at 3.48/game. They are the worst team in the league by scoring differential at five on five, and they’re the worst team in the league on the penalty kill. Their 17th-ranked powerplay is one part of their game that isn’t completely terrible. They have also been mustering a good number of shots at five on five – third in the league – but give up just as many as the Leafs do.
There is the concern of running into a hot goalie if the Panthers turn to Jacob Markstrom in net. He has allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts despite facing an average of 37 shots in those outings. His numbers are impressive, with a .923 save percentage despite an overall 3-6-1 record.
The Leafs will turn to Ben Scrivens in net in the back-to-back scenario. Reimer is clearly the guy now, but he was thoroughly worked in the Boston games and could use the rest.
Matt Frattin is also expected to return to the lineup, likely returning to Mikhail Grabovski’s wing.