It’s hard to get pumped up about game 81. The Leafs have their playoff spot clinched. They know who their opponent will be. They know that they are the third seed.
The Lightning have clinched the President’s Trophy. Nothing they do will have any impact on who they face. They know they get home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Tonight is pretty much about not getting injured. Or sitting guys who are a little injured. Or rehabbing guys who are coming back from injury.
HEY JAKE GARDINER IS BACK EVERYBODY!!!
Yep, that’s pretty much the story right there.
It’s also a chance for Leafs to chase down some individual stat success stories. There are two games left in the year and Tavares is three goals away from 50 and Matthews is 3 away from 40. Both of those are uphill climbs, but stranger things have happened.
Kasperi Kapanen is one goal away from 20, and that might be more achievable. If he hits that number he’d be one of 20 Leafs to do so this year.
Additionally for Tavares, he’s 2 points away from 90 points this season. That would be a nice little success story, and I’m trying to remember the last time the Leafs had two 90 guys. So there’s that.
Lines at Leafs morning skate
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 4, 2019
It doesn’t look like Babcock wants Matthews to hit 40 goals this year, but on a positive note we get another look at William Nylander at center and that’s fun. There’s also that Rosen and Dermott pairing that brings a smile to face as much as seeing Gardiner-Zaitsev above it will allow.
Andersen’s back in net, but you’d hope that if the Lightning go full Lightning on the Leafs defense that he’ll call it a night early and Sparks can do some mop up duty.
It’s funny how something as simple as Victor Hedman not being in the lineup makes the Lightning look so much more human. Of course they are still incredibly good, but I’m going to allow myself to believe that this team may be beatable under the right circumstances.
It seems odd that both teams are going with their #1 goaltenders tonight and Andrei Vasilevskiy will be getting the start for Tampa, but perhaps we’ve all overestimated the fatigue level of highly trained elite athletes.
Anyway, if watching two teams that want to hit fast forward to next week is your bag, then tune in tonight at 7PM ET on TSN 4 to watch the clock run out on the last home game of the regular season.