Projected Game 1 lineups
Alex Kerfoot Auston Matthews Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev John Tavares Ondrej Kase
William Nylander David Kampf Pierre Engvall
Kyle Clifford Colin Blackwell Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly Ilya Lyubushkin
Jake Muzzin TJ Brodie
Mark Giordano Timothy Liljegren
Ondrej Palat Steven Stamkos Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel Anthony Cirelli Braydon Point
Alex Killorn Ross Colton Nick Paul
Patrick Maroon Pierre-Edouard Bellemare Corey Perry
Victor Hedman Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev Zach Bogosian/Cal Foote
Stamkos finished the year on a roll, but a motivated Matthews and Marner have been magic all year with a hot Engvall and Mikheyev added to secondary scoring.
Have the Leafs fixed their playoff Achilles heel at this position? Certainly they’re more physical with Lyubushin, more seasoned with Giordano and hope Muzzin is healthy all through the series. But Hedman is a beast and he has lots of help.
Vasilevskiy stands taller in more ways than one. Though he has lost more games to Toronto than any foe other than Florida, he has endured the most scrutinized position in playoffs a lot more than Campbell, yet to prove his mettle with a series win.
For years the Leafs and the entire league have lived in fear of the Stamkos one-timer on the power play. Now he competes with Matthews with his quick release from anywhere and extra room on the man advantage with a talented cast that had the league’s best numbers. Leafs also lead the NHL in short-handed goals.
Sheldon Keefe has impressively built the Leafs ‘game plan and confidence back from last year’s first round denouement. But there’s a reason Jon Cooper’s name is on the Cup twice for pushing the right buttons.
Toronto has home ice, but still need a win or two down south. Tampa has some new players who feel the pressure to meet expectations of a third straight Cup, but nothing like the baggage Leafs have from so many first -round failures. Each team has decent depth, with Leafs’ Michael Bunting and Rasmus Sandin due to return from injury.
Steve Simmons : Lightning in 7
Lance Hornby: Lightning in 7
Terry Koshan: Leafs in 7
Mike Traikos: Leafs in 7