What we’ve expected for weeks, if not months, finally became a reality on Saturday night:
The Toronto Maple Leafs will square off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Lightning clinched a playoff berth on Saturday with a 5-0 shutout win over the New York Islanders. In doing so, they also secured a spot as either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the Atlantic Division.
Toronto currently sits four points up on the Lightning (100 to 96) with two games in hand. The Leafs also narrowly hold the regulation wins tiebreaker by a count of 38 to 37.
Our first opening-round series is officially locked in. 🔒
The @TBLightning clinching a berth in the 2023 #StanleyCup Playoffs also confirmed that they’ll face the @MapleLeafs in the First Round for the second time in as many years. #NHLStats: https://t.co/6VIKjhp9UT pic.twitter.com/bjw1gSR4hK
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 2, 2023
Of course, the Leafs and Lightning are more than familiar with each other by now. They previously met in the first round of the 2022 playoffs, with Tampa Bay winning the series in seven games.
The two teams had never contested a playoff series against each other before last year, but they’ve been divisional rivals ever since the NHL realigned from six divisions to four in the 2013-14 season.
As every hockey fan in Toronto knows by now, the Leafs haven’t made it past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2004. They haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967.
But, even with Auston Matthews in the midst of a down season, the Leafs look reasonably well-positioned to sneak past a depleted Lightning team — and, if they can overcome that barrier, who knows what they can accomplish?
We might just find out this spring. The Leafs defeated the Ottawa Senators by a 3-0 score on Saturday night. They’r …
Author: Mike Gould / The Leafs Nation