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Playoff Preview: Maple Leafs vs Lightning


It is no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled in the postseason for over 18 years but this year seems to have a different feel in Leafs Nation as the Leafs are looking for their revenge as they are set to play the Tampa Bay Lighting again after the heartbreak from last season. The last time these teams faced off in the playoffs it was a close battle that saw the Lighting win in 7 games. I will be covering key moments of the series and which players will be their team’s biggest X-Factors 

Tampa Bay Lightning 

The Lightning’s road to the finals for 4 seasons in a row starts with a clash against the Maple Leafs. Although they have looked shaky earlier in the season this team has goals and are ready to fight for them. The Lightning do have the advantage in defense, experience, and goaltending. Although the Lightning core is starting to age, they have shown that they can still compete against the best teams. Although I do think this core will reach a point where they will start to decline I do not think this is that year. 

Lightning X-Factors

Andrei Vasilevskiy– 

Vasilevskiy is once again having a great season, He will be a crucial role in the Lightning’s success. Every team needs a great goalie for the playoffs, and Vasilevsky has proven year that he can provide that. I expect Vasilevskiy to steal at least one game for the Lightning over this series

Steven Stamkos– 

Stamkos seems to get better with age, as he is over a point per game for the second year in a row. He will also be a crucial role for the Tampa Bay Lightning If they want to go past the Toronto Maple Leafs, young forward core. His experience and leadership will play a key role 

Bottom 6 + Grit –

With the Maple Leafs being heavy spenders at the trade deadline and bolstering their Line up, Tampa Bay will have to dig deep in their depth to get scoring all throughout their lineup. Toronto is a young team with still little to no playoff success. I think it is important to have players with a lot of grit in the lineup. Guys like Corey Perry, and Patrick Maroon are guys that will have a key role for the Lightnings success. 


The Tampa Bay Lightning have been to the finals three times in three years and look to push for a fourth year. With their playoff success comes experience, and their lineup is filled with experience. Which will become a big factor if the series goes to 7 games.

Toronto Maple Leafs 

Switching over to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Maple Leafs have a lot to prove this season and with time running out on their superstar’s contracts, it seems like this year it’s now or never for this core. The Leafs went big spenders at the trade deadline, acquiring key pieces for long-term playoff success. It is simple for this team, go big or go home. Not only are they feeling the pressure from their fans, but also inside the organization. Kyle Dubas’s contract is set to expire this summer, Sheldon Keefes is on the hot seat and superstars Auston Matthews and William Nylander’s contracts expire at the conclusion of next season. The Maple Leafs were big spenders at the trade deadline, giving up key future pieces, showing Kyle Dubas is all in on this team. With a stacked Eastern Conference, no run to the finals would be easy, but I think with a bit of confidence this team can do some damage in the playoffs.

Maple Leafs X-Factors

The “Big 4” – We saw last season Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are determined to see success in the Playoffs. Playoff success will only start with the big players producing. Everyone always talks about depth is what wins you cups, seeing your top players produce will have a similar impact. In previous playoff series, It seemed to have been the depth scoring rather than the top six players. We saw these players start producing in the playoffs last year, and I expect that to happen this season too. It’s simple, if the Leafs want to advance to the second round they need scoring from their whole lineup.

Ilya Samsonov

Ilya Samsonov will have a lot of work to do in the playoffs but if he continues his steady play he will be a key factor for the Leafs. One of the most concerning parts of Samsonov’s play is his lack of playoff experience. With only 8 games in the playoffs with the Washington Capitals, the only thing Samsonov lacks is experience.

Michael Bunting

Bunting will play a key role for the Leafs in this series. Fans recently started to pick up on the mixed officiating against Bunting. Most fans know the rule book goes away in the playoffs, so Bunting’s playstyle may not get called as much. I think will give him leverage to do what he wants and play his play style to get under his opponent’s skin. 


Every year there seems to be one player to blame on defense, for over the past two seasons Leaf fans have found at least one player to pick on after each series. I think a key piece to their success is going to come from defense. Not necessarily producing in points, but playing lockdown defense and playing aggressive, hard-hitting hockey and minimizing mistakes.

Recap and Predictions 

 I think this series will be one of the best series to watch in the first round. I could see the series going to 6 or 7 games. It’s hard to say who I think will win this series due to how close the 2 teams are. With everything that I mentioned and comparing the teams on paper I think this is the year the Leafs will finally advance to the second round for the first time in 18 years.

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