Game 82 has come and gone, and what a season it has been for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a year that saw them set the record for most wins in franchise history with 54, their star player scored 60 goals and 106 points. We also saw breakout seasons in players like Bunting, Engvall, and Mikheyev, and our core players put up career numbers such as Nylander, Rielly, and Marner. But most importantly, we saw growth within the team, a team that has improved a ton defensively and matured offensively, which makes the fans more excited than ever for this year’s playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs will face off against Tampa Bay in the 1st round of the post-season on Monday, May 2nd, so let’s talk about the series.
I am predicting that Toronto will beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in 6 games and advance to the 2nd round, I feel that Toronto is due for success, and after the year they have had, I believe the momentum will carry through the post-season. Obviously, without the stars showing up throughout the playoffs, all the accomplishments this season will be overshadowed by yet another playoff without success and will most likely end the Kyle Dubas era in Toronto.
Lately, Toronto has seen a few too many injuries occur within their lineup, and that leaves us all wondering who will draw into the lineup ahead of next week’s series opener against Tampa Bay. According to coach Sheldon Keefe, we could see Bunting, Kase, and Sandin back in time for game 1, allowing Toronto to play many variations of the bottom six and bottom three on the backend. This is what my game one lineup would look like against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a perfect world.
- Bunting – Matthews – Marner
- Kase – Tavares – Mikheyev
- Nylander – Kerfoot – Engvall
- Blackwell – Kampf – Simmonds
Extra’s: Spezza, Clifford, Abruzzese
- Rielly – Lyubushkin
- Muzzin – Brodie
- Giordano – Liljegren
Extra’s: Sandin, Holl
I feel this lineup will provide the most talent and depth to find success. Of course, many say that we need toughness in the lineup to win the cup, but I believe that you need depth and with the depth comes toughness, and that is what Toronto’s depth can provide in the playoffs. The important thing to remember is that your lineup for game one doesn’t need to be your lineup for game 6 of the cup final or even game 2 of the 1stround. If the Maple Leafs feel they are getting pushed around, you can insert Clifford into the 4th round and add grit to the lineup. If you need to add some more experience, then insert the veteran Jason Spezza, but this lineup provides the most talent going into the start of the series.
The Toronto Maple Leafs head into the playoffs with very high expectations, we have seen what has happened in past years, but when the 1st game of the series in the 1st round starts, nothing else matters. It is a clean slate for every player who steps on the ice, and that should be the mindset that the fans have and the players. The Maple Leafs shouldn’t live in the past but focus on their goal as a team to win the ultimate prize, Lord Stanley’s mug.