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How Much Does Home Ice Mean? Leafs vs. Devils

April 9, 2024, 7:09 PM ET [338 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have five games left in the regular season before their almost certain rematch with the Florida Panthers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and at this point the only thing undetermined is whether the series will start in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena or at the Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise.

The 3-2 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday moved the Leafs to within three points of the Panthers in the race for second place and home-ice advantage. Toronto has a game in hand, but both clubs are playing on Tuesday with Florida at home taking on Ottawa in the battle of the Tkachuk brothers and Toronto visiting the Rock in Newark to face the New Jersey in the first of a home-and-home series.

Matthew Knies tied the game in the second period, Auston Matthews scored his 65th goal of the season to give Toronto the lead in the third and set up Jake McCabe for the overtime winner. Ilya Samsonov was stellar once again in a 31-save effort for his 23rd victory of the season.

“I thought we played a pretty good game defensively. Even in the third period, I didn’t think we gave up very much. They got the one behind Sammy there, but I thought we played patient. We didn’t give up much off the rush. This team does a lot of damage on the rush, and we managed that very well.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “The guys didn’t cheat or get away from it. They stayed with it, even though the game was really tight. We didn’t get a ton of offense ourselves, but it was one of those games where we just had to stay with it. Because we didn’t get a lot of offense, we didn’t get the regulation win, but I liked a lot of things about the game.”

While Matthews reaching 70 goals and William Nylander getting 100 points are individual marks that the Leafs want to achieve, catching the Panthers is a team goal that is possible to achieve, but how much does it mean?

The Leafs had home-ice advantage in their second-round match last May and the Panthers won three times at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto did win both games against Florida at home this season, but they have more wins on road than they do at 40 Bay. The point here is that the most important for Toronto is to get everyone back in the lineup and healthy for Game 1 wherever it is.

Joseph Woll is expected to get the start against the Devils in the second of back-to-back games, who will be without center Jack Hughes.


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