Coming off of a 3-2 loss to the Stanley Cup champions on Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face another stiff test when the 2018-19 President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning come to town tonight at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet Ontario).
The Lightning are off to a 1-1-1 start and aren’t particularly happy with their play so far this season. Tampa generated just two shots on goal in the final two periods of their recent OT loss to the Hurricanes and managed the puck terribly through the second half of the game. After the loss, captain Steven Stamkos called out his team’s “freewheeling” style and said it would be “a really long year” for the team if the Lightning, “think we can come into games and win because we’re skilled.”
That the Lightning have been issued a challenge by their captain coming into the game isn’t a welcomed sight necessarily for the Leafs, but it also means they should get the Lightning’s best effort tonight — and that’s a pretty good opportunity to measure up early in the year. The Lightning will stress test the Leafs’ depth through their lineup over four lines and three pairings. These matchups the past two years — between two of the fastest, deepest, most skilled teams in the league — have made for great entertainment. Both teams should be hungry coming off of recent losses as well as their first-round playoff disappointments last Spring still fresh in the memory bank.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on the challenge tonight:
I think it is a great opportunity. We get to find out a lot about our players — all 12 forwards, all six D. We’re going to find out about everything. There is nowhere to hide. There are real good teams playing. I liked our last game — I’d like to have won, but I liked how we played and our process. We have to have the same thing. It’s a good team.
Babcock on the Tavares’ line needing to break through offensively:
I actually thought their game was better than I thought when I watched it on video. They had way more play around the net. They just never got it to the net enough. They didn’t bang it in. For guys that score, they feel that’s the measure. I thought Kappy had a strong game, He was on the puck on the forecheck. He did a good job for us physically. He got pucks back off of faceoffs. I thought he did a good job. We just got to keep everybody going.
Babcock on the challenge of getting a team to buy into playing a style in the regular season that will work in the playoffs:
I don’t believe that. I believe when your team is ready, that is not as big of a challenge as you think. When you win, it’s because your leadership group decides it is time to do it right over a period of time. In the end, you’re not just hitting a switch down the stretch at playoff time. It’s just not going to happen. You have to play right. If you don’t play right, you’re going to be disappointed. It is great to have high octane and it’s a lot of fun. It’s fun to watch, but you’re gone in a hurry. Be less fun to watch, win more often, and stay around longer.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#24 Kasperi Kapanen – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #42 Trevor Moore
#61 Nic Petan – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #19 Jason Spezza
#8 Jake Muzzin – #94 Tyson Barrie
#44 Morgan Rielly – #83 Cody Ceci
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #3 Justin Holl
#31 Frederik Andersen
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched: Martin Marincin, Nick Shore, Dmytro Timashov
Injured: Zach Hyman, Travis Dermott
Marner – Tavares – Matthews
Nylander – Kerfoot – Spezza
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Steven Stamkos – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat – Anthony Cirelli – Alex Killorn
Mathieu Joseph – Tyler Johnson – Yanni Gourde
Patrick Maroon – Carter Verhaeghe – Luke Witkowski
Victor Hedman – Braydon Coburn
Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev – Kevin Shattenkirk