The Leafs complete their mini-swing through Florida tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Expect a storm to hit at 7:30 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs’ path to victory:
1) The Leafs need one more strong performance from Ben Scrivens to complete the sweep in their short road visit to the sunshine state. At the same time, Scrivens is probably interested in solidifying his own position on the team. Since replacing starter James Reimer on February 11th, Scrivens has stopped 133 of 137 shots in four contests. In the process, he has recorded three wins and two shutouts – the first two shutouts of his young career. When Reimer eventually returns to the lineup, there might be a reversal of roles with him serving as Scrivens’ backup. It should be added, however, that Scrivens has benefited from a string of starts against inconsistent (Philadelphia Flyers) or bad teams (Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers). His one loss, in which he surrendered three goals, came against the much stronger Carolina Hurricanes. How he plays tonight against the offensively gifted Tampa Bay Lightning could have a strong impact on the team’s future goaltending arrangement. Is Scrivens up to the challenge?
This wasn’t Scrivens’ best game by any stretch of the imagination, allowing four goals on 13 shots. He didn’t even get to complete the game as head coach Randy Carlyle called upon Jussi Rynnas to finish things out. In fairness to Scrivens, however, the team in front of him didn’t play its best game either. Two games in two nights might prove too much for the young Leafs.
2) Tampa Bay Lightning forward and two-time winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy Steven Stamkos was born in Markham, Ontario. He grew-up watching the Leafs and would surely relish the opportunity to (once again) beat his boyhood team. Does he take it to the Leafs? (Here my loyalty to the Leafs is pitted against the needs of my current hockey pool team.)
Stamkos connected for one goal on the night and was seen all over the Leafs in their own end. It cannot be denied that he’s one dynamic player!
3) Captain Dion Phaneuf has collected six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in his last five games. At the same time, the Leafs’ power play has shown some signs of life (Phaneuf has four power play points over the same span of games). Is the key to the team’s power play keeping Phaneuf on the scorecard?
No offensive output from Phaneuf, no power play goals. It seems pretty simple.
4) Which defencemen will sit in the press box tonight? Mike Komisarek has been virtually absent from the Leafs’ lineup since the season began while John-Michael Liles was a healthy scratch last night with the return of Carl Gunnarsson. Mark Fraser, who currently leads the team at +13, Korbinian Holzer and Michael Kostka have all shown that they’re more than capable of playing in the NHL. Cody Franson, for his part, leads the defence with nine points (1 goal, 8 assists) and is a healthy +10. In short, I wouldn’t expect to see any change.
As expected, Carlyle made no changes to the defence. Expect that to change for Thursday’s game.
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