What to watch for in Leafs-Lightning after Toronto's blowout Game 1 win

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The Toronto Maple Leafs thumped the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-0 on Monday to open the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Keep an eye on these storylines as the Atlantic Division series continues.

The superstar showdown

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Few scorers were hotter to end the regular season than two familiar Bolts. Nikita Kucherov recorded 23 points in Tampa Bay's last nine games; Steven Stamkos bagged 26 points in that span. The Lightning potted six or more goals five times in the back half of April alone.

That mojo vanished on Monday when Toronto's dominance was comprehensive while the Lightning's lack of urgency bewildered. The Leafs shackled Tampa Bay's big guns at even strength and on the power play. Meanwhile, Mitch Marner took over in every phase.

Marner snapped his 18-game postseason goal drought - dating back to Toronto's opener in 2019 - making this the first playoff game in which he and Auston Matthews both scored. Marner set up Matthews' snipe with the two-man advantage, and he teamed with Alex Kerfoot to wreak havoc shorthanded. Their aggressiveness and stickwork kept springing the Leafs for odd-man rushes during the major penalty in the first period that Tampa squandered.

The Lightning didn't record a shot on that power play until the final minute. The defending Cup champs weren't ready to play; Toronto, capitalizing on so many disrupted zone entries and sloppy Tampa passes, turned defense to offense in an instant. David Kampf pounced on a clearance that Hedman failed to save at the offensive blue line for a breakaway goal.

The Lightning inflicted beatdowns like this one as the season waned. When they routed Toronto 8-1 on April 21, head coach Jon Cooper cautioned that it was one game and wouldn't be relevant for long. Sixty nightmarish minutes into the playoffs, Cooper has to hope the logic holds up and that Kucherov and Stamkos start to trouble Jack Campbell.

Toronto's special teams edge

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Michael Bunting sends the Leafs to the power play more than anyone. Ever willing to drive the crease and provoke an opponent, Bunting drew 45 penalties at all strengths this season, per Natural Stat Trick, placing him third in the NHL in the category behind Connor McDavid and Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Kerfoot's 23 drawn penalties ranked second on the Leafs. Matthews and Marner, Bunting's superstar linemates, drew 27 penalties between them. You get the idea: Bunting earns the lion's share of the calls, and the Leafs score with the man advantage at the league's best rate.

Despite Bunting's injury absence, the Leafs drew six power plays in Game 1. Toronto only converted one of those chances via Matthews' blast from the left faceoff dot. But that was plenty given Tampa's 0-for-5 success rate.

Lax passes and puck control haunted the Lightning, which belied the danger their power play usually presents. Campbell stoned Brayden Point by the crease shortly before Kampf scored shorthanded. The Leafs tempted fate by taking several obstruction penalties, and Kyle Clifford's hit from behind was inadvisable, so it bodes well that special teams still swung the game Toronto's way.

Bunting's 63 points this season - as it happens, only five came on the power play - made him a Calder Trophy candidate. Shelved by an awkward tumble against the Florida Panthers on April 23, he returned to practice ahead of Game 1 and is in the lineup for Game 2. Bunting could take advantage if the tight officiating persists.

The goalie battle

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The Lightning's projected advantage in net - Andrei Vasilevskiy edges Campbell in key statistical categories and Conn Smythe Trophy wins - didn't materialize in Game 1.

Vasilevskiy was good in the first period. He stopped all of Toronto's chances during the Clifford major, plus wraparound and one-time attempts from Matthews, then stood tall on William Nylander's breakaway. But he drifted distressingly far out of his net on the Marner goal and, by mishandling a routine dump-in, gifted Matthews his second tally. The game snowballed and wound up being one of Vasilevskiy's worst ever in the playoffs.

Per Evolving-Hockey, Vasilevskiy saved 17.6 goals above expected during the regular season - the No. 4 mark in the league. Campbell's GSAx this year was minus-8.18. But Campbell was sterling when needed on Monday and now has elevated his game to start consecutive playoff series, including Toronto's infamous defeat last spring to the Montreal Canadiens.

Campbell's .934 save percentage against Montreal was superb, but he faded a bit as the seven-game series went on and didn't make enough stops to thwart the Habs' comeback. Game 1 against the Lightning was him and the Leafs at their best. Sustaining that is the next challenge.

Nick Faris is a features writer at theScore.

What to watch for in Leafs-Lightning after Toronto's blowout Game 1 win
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