TORONTO – The Presidents’ Trophy winners are eliminated, as are the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The NHL playoffs took unexpected turns heading into the second round and, for the first time in nearly 20 years, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still in the thick of the action.
Separately, some sports betting sites have made the Maple Leafs the new favorites to lift the Cup in the spring, for the first time since 1967.
Last weekend, the Maple Leafs ended a 19-year drought by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, finally winning a playoff series. The next opponent will be the eighth-seeded Florida Panthers, who beat the Boston Bruins in overtime in Game 7.
“The next series brings new challenges,” said defender Luke Schenn. It is obvious that one experiences a sense of accomplishment for 24 hours, and then one already moves on to the next series. ”
The Maple Leafs gained home-ice advantage in the second round, following the loss to the Bruins. They will host the first two games against the Panthers, with the first scheduled for Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena.
“After beating a team like the Bruins, I’m sure they’ll come here with confidence,” Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews said. I think we can say the same for our group. We need to refocus and prepare to fight. ”
The Leafs were beaten by the Lightning in Game 1 of the first round and needed some exceptional comebacks to win games and then eventually the series.
After wasting a chance to qualify at home in Game 5, the Leafs were able to compensate by being very effective on the road. Captain John Tavares confirmed the second-round ticket for his side, scoring the winning goal in overtime.
“We have to keep making sure we play very boldly,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. Obviously we want to get off to a better start in the series than last time. ”
This will be the first meeting between the Maple Leafs and the Panthers in the playoffs.
Sergei Bobrovsky and Alex Lyon shared goaltending duties against the Bruins.
The Maple Leafs’ talent has been proven against the Lightning, with Mitch Marner (11 points), Auston Matthews (nine), Morgan Rielly (eight), John Tavares, William Nylander and Ryan O’Reilly (seven each) leading the way. list.
“I think in many ways the type of series will be very similar to what we just had,” Keefe said after a 45-minute team practice at the Ford Performance Centre.
Joseph Woll served as a backup, but Matt Murray (concussion) returned to practice on Monday and will likely travel with the team.
In addition to the Panthers’ upset victory, the Seattle Kraken beat the defending champions Colorado Avalanche in seven games, leaving nine teams in the playoff hunt heading into Monday night’s game between the New York and the New Jersey Devils.
The Bet365 website ranked the Maple Leafs as favorites (+350) to win the Stanley Cup, ahead of the Edmonton Oilers (+375) and Vegas Golden Knights (+550).
Panthers head coach Paul Maurice coached the Maple Leafs for two seasons, beginning in the 2006-07 campaign.
The Maple Leafs are 3-0-1 against the Panthers in the regular season.