Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning wear Stamkos 1000 jerseys during warmups before an NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. The team is honoring Steven Stamkos after he played his 1,000th career game last week. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Lightning Prepare to Face Maple Leafs as They Begin Quest for Fourth Straight Eastern Conference Title

Following Thursday’s 5-0 home victory over the Detroit Red Wings, the Tampa Bay Lightning finished the regular season with 98 points and clinched third place in the Atlantic Division.

The Lightning will begin their quest for a fourth straight Eastern Conference title as they prepare to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in a best-of-seven series set to begin Tuesday. The teams will play the first two games in Canada before they head to the Sunshine State for games three and four. The Leafs won two of three regular-season games against the Bolts, but Tampa Bay defeated Toronto in seven games last year in the first round of the playoffs.

Lightning Leaders

Center Brayden Point led the Bolts with 51 goals this season, becoming just the third player in Lightning history to reach the 50-goal mark.

After Thursday’s win, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper called Point a “premier player” who deserved to reach this milestone.

“You could tell by the reaction of the players on the bench how fired up everybody was for [Point],” Cooper said. “He’s had countless big goals for us in the biggest moments when we needed them, but to get 50 [goals], that’s a feather in your cap.”

Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov led the team in points (113) after he lit the lamp 30 times and recorded 83 assists. Kucherov finished second in the NHL in assists behind only Oilers center Connor McDavid (89).

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy started 60 games in net this season en route to four shutouts and a 34-22-4 record.

Preparing for Toronto

The Maple Leafs closed the season on a four-game winning streak, finishing second in the Atlantic. Mitchell Marner led Toronto with 99 points, but Auston Matthews and William Nylander led the Leafs with 40 goals each. Nylander scored in three of his final four games of the regular season including this goal against the Rangers.

The Leafs started three different goalies this season, but Ilya Samsonov led the team with 27 wins and four shutouts.

Cooper called Toronto a “good opponent” and discussed the familiarity between the two division rivals.

“We’re going to play a really good opponent,” Cooper said. “It’s two good teams going to play, we met last year, pretty familiar with each other. In the end, we’ve just got to game it out.”

Game one of the series is scheduled for Tuesday.

About Griffin Foll

Hi, my name is Griffin Foll and I am currently a senior at UF studying journalism with a focus on sports and media and an outside concentration in political science. In addition to covering the 2023 UF men's and women's golf beats, I contribute weekly web and radio content for WRUF ESPN Gainesville. Be sure to check out some of my recent articles!

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