- The first-round 2023 NHL playoff matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning is a rematch of the first round of last year’s first-round series.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games during the 2022 NHL playoffs.
- Toronto has not made it past the first round of the NHL playoffs since 2004.
Let’s get this out of the way early. The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, and have not made it past the second round of the NHL playoffs since 2004. Tonight, the Leafs begin the 2023 NHL playoffs with a series against the team that defeated them in a seven-game series in the first round of the 2022 NHL postseason, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Toronto finished the 2023 NHL regular season in second place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 50-21-11. While the Leafs finished short of last year’s all-time franchise record of 54 wins and 115 points, the team’s 111 points for this season is the second most in franchise history.
Tampa Bay, who won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021, made it to the Finals again last year, but the club did not win a third straight Cup. Instead they fell to the Colorado Avalanche in six games. The Lightning had 110 points at the end of the 2022 NHL regular season. This year their 46-30-6 record gave them 98 points and third place in the Atlantic.
Before we look at the first-round matchup of the 2023 NHL Eastern Conference playoffs between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning, check out our guide to betting on the 2023 Stanley Cup and our tips for betting on the NHL.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning betting picks for NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Series
|To Win 2023 NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Series|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+153||+140||+145|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||-173||-165||-165|
Toronto Maple Leafs betting breakdown
The Maple Leafs enter the 2023 NHL playoffs with a 27-8-6 home record and a 23-13-5 mark on the road. Toronto wrapped up the 2023 NHL regular season with a 7-1-2 record in its final 10 games, and the team enters the postseason on a four-game winning streak.
Mitch Marner finished the season with a career-high 99 points to lead the Maple Leafs in scoring for the 2023 campaign. William Nylander and Auston Matthews tied for the team’s leader in goals with 40. Nylander improved on his previous high of 34, which he scored last year, while Matthews dropped from 60 goals in 2022. Marner was the team’s leader in assists with 69 and he broke the 30 goal threshold with 30. John Tavares was the other Maple Leafs’ player to score 30 or more goals with 36.
Ilya Samsonov was not in net for the Maple Leafs for the final two games of the regular season, but he is expected to get the start for the Lightning series. Samsonov finished the year with a 27-10-5 record to go with a 2.33 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.
Tampa Bay Lightning betting breakdown
The Lighting head into the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs with a 28-8-5 home record. The team went 18-22-1 on the road and finished the season with a 4-6-0 mark in its final 10 games. Tampa Bay enters its 2023 playoff series against the Maple Leafs coming off a loss in its final regular season game.
Nikita Kucherov played all 82 games for the Lightning in 2023 for the first time since 2019, and he led the team in scoring (113 points) and assists (83). The team’s top goal scorer for 2023 was Brayden Point with 51. Point’s previous best in goals was 41 in 2019. The Lightning had three other players besides Point score 30 or more goals this season. Those players were Steven Stamkos (34), Kucherov (30) and Brandon Hagel (30).
Andrei Vasilevskiy once again carried the goaltending load for the Lightning, going 34-22-4. He put up a 2.65 goals against average and a .915 save percentage on the season.
2023 NHL Regular Season: Head-to-Head
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning played three times in 2023. Toronto won two games in regulation (4-1, 4-3), while the Lighting downed the Leafs 4-3 in overtime.
Leafs vs. Lightning Playoff Series Schedule
Game 1 (at TOR): April 18, 7:30 ET (ESPN)
Game 2 (at TOR): April 20, 7 ET (ESPN)
Game 3 (at TB): April 22, 7 ET (TBS)
Game 4 (at TB): April 24, 7:30 ET (TBS)
Game 5* (at TOR): April 27, TBD
Game 6* (at TB): April 29, TBD
Game 7* (at TOR): May 1, TBD
Best bets for the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Playoff Series
The Tampa Bay Lightning are struggling at the wrong time. The club finished the 2023 regular season by losing eight of their last 12 games, and the team is giving up more than 32 shots per game. That’s not a good thing against a team like the Leafs, who have a talented group of forwards.
The one worry about the Leafs is if their starting goalie struggles because the team is lacking depth in that position.
I don’t know if this is the year the Leafs end their Stanley Cup drought, but it is the year they get out of the first round. The best bet for this series is to pick the Toronto Maple Leafs to beat the Tampa Bay Lighting in five games.
Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs to beat Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.
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