Lightning Draw Familiar Foe In First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Lightning Draw Familiar Foe In First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

Lightning Draw Familiar Foe In First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

By Jordan Ogren

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s path to the Stanley Cup Playoffs was paved with personal milestones throughout the 2022–23 regular season.

Nikita Kucherov (42 PP assists), Brayden Point (51 regular season goals) and Alex Killorn (27 goals, 37 assists) all set career years in respective categories.  Steven Stamkos further fortified his “Legend” status with a few big achievements.  Stamkos scored his 500th goal, 1000th point and 1000th career game.

In one of the more anticipated matchups of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tampa Bay and Toronto Maple Leafs are set to square off in the First Round for the second consecutive year.


The rivalry between the Lightning and the Maple Leafs began to develop in the early 2000s but grew stronger following the NHL’s realignment in 2013.  Since then, both teams have been consistent championship contenders- leading to several meaningful and fierce clashes on the ice over the last decade, particularly in the last three postseasons.

If their most recent meeting on April 11 was not convincing enough, these two teams strongly dislike one another.  This matchup has the potential to set a record for penalty minutes in a series.


Whether or not the game had a “playoff” feel is up for debate.  To almost everyone in Amalie Arena, and those watching from home, the second-to-last game of the regular season against Toronto was as intense a fight as one could imagine.  Fight is an accurate word for a game that had a combined 52 penalty minutes and the same number of hits.

“You gotta be smart.  Sometimes you can feel the refs out and get away with a shot after the whistle, but tonight that wasn’t happening.  They were taking the guy every time.  So as players, you just gotta know when it goes to the net; if you gotta eat one, you gotta eat one,” said LW Nick Paul after the 4–3 Toronto loss.

Following the loss to the Leafs, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was not convinced he saw a playoff caliber game, particularly from his own squad.

“There was zero intensity in that game.  I’m telling you, there was none.  It may look like it from the stands, but that was an exhibition game.  It wasn’t even a regular season game,” said Cooper.

“We know what’s going on in the playoffs.  We’re playing each other, there’s no secret about it.  We played them last year.  There’s a good rout between us,” said Paul when asked about the physicality of the loss.

The team that advances will have a less than desirable path to hoist Lord Stanley.  Unless the Florida Panthers can pull off one of the biggest upsets in playoff hockey history, the big, bad Boston Bruins will be waiting in the second round.  Boston just finished one of the greatest regular season campaigns in history, setting new records for wins (65) and points (135) in a regular season.




Point has led the charge for the Lightning offense, becoming only the third Lightning player ever to score 50+ goals in a season, finishing the regular season with 51.  The Lightning defense has been exposed as of late, so goal production could be even more important for the Bolts this time around than in postseasons past.  Look for Point to redeem himself for last year’s meek two-goal postseason performance.


Killorn is enjoying one of his best seasons in a Lightning uniform to the tune of 27 goals and 37 assists, both career highs. He has been especially effective late in the season and looks primed to help the Bolts make another deep playoff run.

See Also


The opening game of the series will be Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 100th career playoff start. The “Big Cat” boasts an impressive 2.30 GAA with seven shutouts in postseason play. Rested and ready, the Bolts need playoff-Vassy to show up big.



Matthews has 104 total goals since the start of last season. One of the biggest superstars in the game today, Matthews will likely be the biggest problem for the Lightning defense in this series.


Serving as team captain since coming to Toronto, after nine years with the New York Islanders, Tavares is a seasoned two-way player and the leader of the Leafs team.


Nylander has had the Lightning’s number this season, scoring three goals and adding three assists in three games against TB in the regular season. In last year’s first round series, the winger put up three goals and four assists in seven games.

PREDICTION: Tampa Bay in seven games (4–3)

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