Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Brandon Hagel (38) breaks out ahead of Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matthew Knies (23) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Tampa Bay Lightning Square Off with Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Tampa Bay Lightning duke it out against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Contest

Tampa Bay looks to finally crack the Maple Leafs after dropping two and stealing one in OT against Toronto in the regular season.

For the second consecutive year, these two foes square off in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Leafs open as the betting favorite, but as last year showed, odds mean nothing in this series. These are two of the best teams in hockey, both with something to prove.

Toronto will look to avoid a fourth first-round exit in the past four years.

Tampa is will try to show everyone nothing has changed – this is still their league and that cup is coming back home.


Can’t Top Tampa

Over the last four years, there is not a team holding a candle to the Lightings’ resume. Tampa Bay has won two of the past four Stanley Cups and made the Stanley Cup in all of the four previous years. Last year, Tampa defeated Toronto in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They will try to do so again beginning Tuesday night at 7:30.

The Lightning saw a rough stretch to complete the regular season. They went 4-6 in their last 10, dropping one of those six to the Maple Leafs just six days ago. Losing to Toronto so closely preceding the series could leave Tampa fans’ confidence deflated entering the possible seven-game contest. The Lightning need to spark the flame if they want to survive and advance.

There is one category that Tampa is far and away better at in this series – shooting. The Lightnings’ roster is composed of straight snipers who can find any corner of the net at any point. Tampa needs to take advantage of the power plays they are gifted throughout this series.

This Lightning squad is a scrappy group who has seen their back against the wall, specifically against this Toronto bunch who was up three games to two against Tampa in the first round last season. This team has already seen success but the question is, are they good enough to see it again?

Toronto Finally Breaks Through?

The Maple Leafs have been on the verge of success for so long, but can never seem to tip the iceberg. Toronto yearns to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades.

Toronto extended their depth and fortified their roster with multiple necessary pre-trade deadline moves. Most notably, they acquired former captain of the St Louis Blues and 2019 Stanley Cup winner, Ryan O’Reilly, who gives the Leafs newfound leadership and extensive postseason experience.

This Leafs team won 50 games this season and holds the tools to win at least one series, if not the Stanley Cup. The shadow that looms over them, though, is ominous. They not only play the slight underdog who sent them packing last season, but their fans are desperate for a playoff win. The Maple Leafs are 19-27 in the playoffs since their last series win in 2004. They have lost seven playoff series in a row since then.

Can this be the Leafs Roster that breaks the curse?


Round One Begins

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning begin play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

About Nate Bilgoray

Nate Bilgoray is a freshman at the University of Florida studying sports journalism. Nate is from New York and is an avid fan of the Yankees, Giants and Knicks. He loves mixed martial arts and would love to do play-by-play for the UFC one day. Nate is the Public Address Announcer for the Florida Gators men's and women's tennis teams.

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