Will the NHL season resume this year? That’s hard to say, but most seem to believe if it does it will only be the Stanley Cup playoffs. If that’s the case and the format is per usual, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs would face off in a spectacular first-round matchup in the East. Let’s see how the NHL odds could be for the Lightning vs Maple Leafs.
NHL projected playoff matchup Odds: Lightning vs Maple Leafs
- Odds to win Eastern Conference: Lightning +400, Maple Leafs +800
- Odds to win Stanley Cup: Lightning +600, Maple Leafs +1800
Like most of the Lightning players, reigning Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov got off to a slow start but then took over this year. He had 33 goals with a team-high 85 points through 68 games before the NHL season was paused March 12. Kucherov also had a plus-26 rating while turning in 1.25 points per game while racking up four goals and 25 power-play points. He now probably won’t get a third consecutive 100-point season, but he was able to reach 30 goals for the fifth straight campaign.
If the NHL resumes its regular season or heads right into the playoffs, star winger Steven Stamkos should be ready. Stamkos underwent core muscle surgery on March 2 and the original timetable for his recovery was set for six-to-eight weeks. Given that timeline, Stamkos could be ready to play by the last week in April.
Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina last year and was having another strong season, going 35-14-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .917 save percentage across his 52 appearances.
If the NHL season does not resume, Tyson Barrie and a number of other Maple Leafs players may have skated in a Toronto uniform for the last time. Barrie, along with Jason Spezza, Kyle Clifford and Cody Ceci are all set to be unrestricted free agents after the conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign.
The NHL salary may not jump up as much as originally thought, which means the Maple Leafs could be in trouble. The NHL projected the cap to go from $81.5 million this year to anywhere between $84 million and $88 million. But that was based on the league making more money with the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. The Leafs currently have $77 million tied up in the salary cap next year.
Auston Matthews leads the team with 47 goals this season and now may miss a chance to join the team’s 50-goal club. Rick Vaive has the franchise record for the most goals in a season with 54, which he set in 1981-82. Blueliner Jake Muzzin may be ready to return to action if the NHL resumes play this season. Muzzin broke his hand on February 25. The Maple Leafs have a 27-15-5 record since replacing Coach Mike Babcock with Sheldon Keefe.
These teams have split two meetings this season. On October 10, the Lightning rolled to a 7-3 win in Toronto. Kucherov scored twice and finished with four points, and Brayden Point had two goals and an assist. Stamkos added a goal and three assists and Ondrej Palat also scored for Tampa Bay. Anthony Cirelli had three assists and Vasilevskiy made 25 saves. Matthews had a goal and an assist, and John Tavares and Andreas Johnsson also scored for Toronto. Frederik Andersen allowed seven goals on 28 shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson seven minutes into the third period. There were seven goals scored in the first period alone.
On Feb. 25 in Tampa, the Leafs pulled off a 4-3 upset. Tavares had two goals for Toronto and Andersen stopped 26 shots. That was the game where Muzzin was hurt. Toronto scored a pair of power play goals while killing off all three Lightning chances, holding Tampa Bay to one shot. Vasilevskiy finished with 19 saves. That was also the game where Stamkos was hurt.