Game 53 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Toronto Maple Leafs

With the Avalanche in the rear-view after a very satisfying win, Tampa Bay is in Toronto for their first match of the season against one of its newly-made Atlantic Division opponents.

The Maple Leafs, which last fell to the Jets in overtime this past weekend, have been on a roll as of late and find themselves once again atop of a horde of closely-packed playoff hopefuls. For general manager Dave Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle — a duo has been second-guessed, mocked, chided and parodied throughout their tenure for a litany of offenses by fans, bloggers and those few in the mainstream media (usually those with a bent towards hockey analytics) — the recent surge came on the heels of a lengthy lengthy and calamitous stretch that, with the club’s hot start to the season gone to waste, prompted the knives to come out and the buzzards to start circling. Things were so bad that even Sun columnist Steve Simmonds, a prominent critic of the critics of the Leafs’ brass, had changed his tune.

Then came a win streak and a predictable, given how many opinions change with prevailing winds, abatement of the gathering storm but the Leafs hold a tenuous lead and most of the other teams in the Eastern Conference have at least a game in hand. In short, the Leafs are far from out of the woods yet.

This is a team that has been often been bailed out, when it hasn’t been busy losing during or after regulation play, by its favorable even-strength save percentages and a one of the league’s best power play shooting percentages. Toronto routinely gets out-attempted, a number of times quite handily. Put simply, the Leafs have overachieved to this point, although the recent winning streak at least seems to have been partially fueled by modest gains in the club’s possession game.

These same underlying problems plagued The Buds last season but the prevailing view from the statistically-inclined is that the lockout-abbreviated 2013 campaign meant the club didn’t have to face the prospect of significant regression over what would have been another 34 games during a full-length season. So, here the Leafs are at a similar juncture, with a flimsy grip on a return trip to the postseason. There’s no shortage of folks on both sides of the analytics divide waiting with near baited breath as to how it’s all going to play out.

The Bolts, for their part, will just be trying to continue their generally winning ways in the absence of their superstar, Steven Stamkos. Superior metrics, which Tampa Bay has managed in the most common game state, even-strength, is never a guarantee of success, especially in a single game but the Bolts ought to like their tonight chances if they can stay out of the box and force the Leafs, as so many other teams have, into an uphill battle at evens.

SEASON SERIES

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NOTES

STANDINGS

LIGHTNING
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MAPLE LEAFS
[table “85” not found /]

ACTIVE ROSTERS

LIGHTNING MAPLE LEAFS
[table “74” not found /]
[table “74” not found /]


STATPACK

LIGHTNING

TOTALS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]
PLAYER SCORING
[table “76” not found /]

RATES

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]

PERCENTAGES

TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]


MAPLE LEAFS

TOTALS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]
PLAYER SCORING
[table “76” not found /]

RATES


TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]

PERCENTAGES

TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]


Team stats cited from Extra Skater

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