TAMPA, FL. – Which Lightning team will show up when the curtain rises on the postseason Monday night in Toronto?
It certainly has been a roller-coaster ride during the season’s second half. After winning seven of eight through February and early March, the Lightning lost six of eight and scored only 11 goals in the defeats. A four-game win streak followed, only to lose the next four.
It may not seem like it, but the Bolts finished the regular season with 51 wins and 110 points, both third-most in team history.
What has Lightning fans feeling good is that the big guns were on fire down the stretch when the team won five of its last six games and seven of its last nine.
If it seemed like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman were involved in just about every goal, well, that was not far from being the case. The captain, who had a hat trick in the season finale on Long Island, closed with a nine-game points streak, totaling 10 goals and 26 points during that stretch. Kucherov also finished the regular season with a nine-game points streak, during which he had 10 goals and 23 points.
Victor Hedman finished the regular season on an eight-game points streak, tallying one goal and 16 assists.
True, the canvas is clean when the puck drops on the postseason. That said, a veteran team that knows how to win is hot heading into the postseason. It’s not like the Lightning are limping in to the playoff derby.
Schedule: Games 1-2 are in Toronto on Monday and Wednesday evenings. The series shifts to Amalie Arena for Games 3-4 on Friday and Sunday. The first three games are 7:30 p.m. and Game 4 is 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 will be in Toronto on May 10, Game 6 at Amalie on May 12 and Game 7 back in Scotiabank Arena on May 14. The times of the final three potential games have yet to be determined.
Head-to-head: For what it is worth, the Lightning went 2-1-1 against the Maple Leafs this season and outscored them 16-12. The last two games of the season series were at home, a 6-2 loss April 4 and an 8-1 win April 21. Stamkos was the team’s leader in goals (42) and points (106) while Austin Matthews (60, 106) paced the Leafs in both categories.
Power play scorching: The Lightning went an eye-opening 14-for-29 in their last nine games on the man advantage. Stamkos, Kucherov, and Hedman combined for nine goals and 23 assists during that run.
18 years: That is how long it has been since the Maple Leafs last won a playoff series. Toronto defeated Ottawa in the opening round of the 2004 playoffs before losing to Philadelphia. Lightning fans know what happened from there as their team defeated the Flyers in the conference championship before besting Calgary to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. The Leafs, who last won the Cup in 1967, have since made the playoffs only six times, including each of the past five seasons.