Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
There weren't a lot of good options for the desperate Toronto Maple Leafs in terms of playoff matchups given the strength of their division, and they ended up with the one with the least personal baggage but perhaps the most intimidating opponent.
We all know about the Tampa Bay Lightning -- back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, deadline buyers who found new pieces to plug-in for the ones they lost in the summer, stacked with elite talent at all positions boasting multiple rings.
We all know about the Toronto Maple Leafs -- losers of six straight playoff series including their past four in winner-take-all elimination games, featuring the likely league MVP with a strong roster but serious questions in net.
It's impossible to keep the narrative away from a statistical analysis of this matchup, as much as one might try. On paper, it's not crazy to say that the Leafs should be solidly favoured here. But it seems insane to suggest that they have that much of an advantage over the two-time defending champions. So let's dive deep here and see what to expect.
My playoff previews are stats-based, going off of both macro- and micro-level statistics gathered by TopDownHockey and AllThreeZones respectively. This allows us to look not only at high-level results (like goals, shots, and expected goals) but also the stylistic process that creates them (like passes, shot types, and transition play) to get a better sense of how the teams match up. Instead of comparing offence to offence and defence to defence, I'll be breaking down the offence vs. defence matchups.
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