The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 17, and some teams will fight until the end for their playoff lives. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning not only have their spots assured, but they know who they're playing.
The Maple Leafs and Lightning will face each other in the first round of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. These two teams also met in the first round last year. Tampa Bay emerged victorious in that series.
In fact, the Maple Leafs have not won a playoff series since 2004. Toronto has appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven consecutive seasons, but have not advanced past the first round.
“Obviously, we played them (in the playoffs) last season and we're monitoring them throughout this season,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “There's not a whole lot of difference there in terms of what you're going to prepare for — it's more just focusing on our game.”
The Lightning are in the midst of a dominating run. Tampa Bay has advanced to three straight Stanley Cup Finals, winning two in a row before last season. They fell to the Colorado Avalanche last summer, ending their championship run.
The Maple Leafs are focused on ending the playoff series loss streak finally. Tampa Bay, however, is trying to maintain their current run of form after a few rough patches this season.
“It seems like we're kind of finding our game,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. “To get in the playoffs is great and everything is kind of known with who we're playing, but we want to continue to play the same way because it's going to be so important when we start the playoffs.”