Leafs, Lightning catch playoff fever morning of Recreation 1



From watching the primary out-of-town playoff video games Monday night time to arriving at Scotiabank Area with a rally towel awaiting on each seat, it was straightforward for the Maple Leafs and Lightning to get into Recreation 1 mode.

Take it from Steven Stamkos, the Lightning captain whose crew is coming into its 13


collection since 2020.

“It’s essentially the most thrilling hockey you’re going to play in your profession, essentially the most enjoyable you’ll have as a professional athlete,” he assured Tuesday morning. “As quickly as that calendar switches and that 82


recreation is over, you may see the twinkle in guys’ eyes, that nervous vitality, that pleasure.”

Each golf equipment held optionally available skates, Leaf veteran defencemen Mark Giordano and Luke Schenn of the Leafs unable to withstand collaborating regardless of being of their 30s. Giordano seen a number of the 4 collection that commenced Monday night.

“I don’t know if there’s something higher than watching the primary spherical, as a participant or a fan,” Giordano mentioned. “You see the tendencies, each recreation is tight, just a few overtimes. (It reveals) it’s a must to be actually targeted on each shift since you don’t know which one would be the deciding one.”

For Schenn, who rejoined the Leafs through the commerce deadline in March, it’s his first playoff look for the membership, 11 years after he departed.

“Higher late than by no means,” he quipped. “A very long time within the making. I don’t assume I believed that (in 2008).”

There was little drama in these groups matching up or the Recreation 1 lineups, as each had been destined for a rematch of final 12 months’s seven-game set, gained by Tampa, from across the February all-star break.

The primary variations are a revamped Leaf crew that put emphasis on defence and added two-way expertise topped by ahead Ryan O’Reilly. Ilya Samsonov is Toronto’s goaltender, the fourth to try to win a first-round collection since Ed Belfour in 2004, a part of the membership’s six straight opening-round defeats.

A lot of the Lightning’s roster that gained two Stanley Cups in ’20 and ‘21 and misplaced to Colorado in final 12 months’s remaining has steadily modified, with Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Ryan McDonough exiting. However the Bolts retain core stars Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Braden Level, Alex Killorn and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and added new expertise.

Final 12 months, additionally holding residence ice benefit, the Leafs gained the opener 5-0 and late in Recreation 6 led by a purpose in Tampa, earlier than dropping that and ultimately the collection.

“You go right into a collection on a excessive, good vibes, however you don’t know precisely what’s going to occur,” mentioned Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

As he has for the reason that handshake line at SBA final Might, Cooper praised Sheldon Keefe as a coach who doesn’t want to vary a lot about his strategy regardless of the first-round falls. Cooper thinks the addition of O’Reilly and emphasis on defence will make the Leafs a lot more durable to get previous this time.

“He’s discovered a approach to get offensive guys to purchase in and that’s the signal of a very good coach,” Cooper mentioned.

Earlier than the sport, the Leafs summoned Erik Kallgren from the Toronto Marlies as their third goalie, Keefe saying there’s a brand new league playoff edict to have a contracted NHLer prepared ought to each a crew’s stoppers get harm. That made it apparent Matt Murray will not be 100% recovered from a concussion although he has been skating for every week.

“We now have an amazing group right here and a particular alternative,” Leaf captain John Tavares mentioned. “You see the highlights final night time and also you get excited.”

Stamkos is from the Toronto space, however says family and friends know higher than to bug him when he’s residence for this essential enterprise.

“You continue to have associates who hopped on the Lightning bandwagon by way of my profession – and a few followers who cheer for us solely when the Leafs are out,” Stamkos laughed. “I really feel conflicted for them proper now.”

Corridor of Fame referee Invoice McCreary is the collection officiating supervisor and certain met with each coaches or common managers Tuesday morning to undergo any questions or considerations.

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