NHL Playoffs 2023: Top Storylines for April 20 Schedule

NHL Playoffs 2023: Top Storylines for April 20 Schedule

Joe TanseyApril 20, 2023


NHL Playoffs 2023: Top Storylines for April 20 Schedule

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    TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 18:  Luke Schenn #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs clears puck away from Brandon Hagel #38 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game One of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on April 18, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs 7-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The Toronto Maple Leafs are under the most pressure of any of the 16 Stanley Cup Playoffs participants to win a series.

    The pressure multiplied on the Original Six franchise after it conceded seven times in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Toronto needs to show fight on home ice in Game 2 to salvage a series split before the matchup heads to Tampa.

    Tampa Bay was one of four road teams to win a Game 1 on Tuesday. The most surprising of those results was produced by the Seattle Kraken in their playoff debut.

    Seattle holds a one-game edge over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche going into Thursday’s Game 2.

    Colorado is looking for a similar response as the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers provided on Wednesday. Dallas and Edmonton recovered from home defeats with multi-goal victories.

Thursday NHL Playoffs Schedule

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    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - APRIL 18:  Adam Fox #23 of the New York Rangers skates during Game One of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on April 18, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images

    Game 2: Tampa Bay at Toronto (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

    Game 2: New York Rangers at New Jersey (7:30 p.m. ET, TBS)

    Game 2: Seattle at Colorado (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

    Game 2: Winnipeg at Vegas (10 p.m. ET, TBS)

Toronto Needs Win More Than Any Team on Thursday

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    TORONTO, ON - APRIL 18: Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Noel Acciari #52 set for a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game One of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Arena on April 18, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

    Here we go again with the Maple Leafs.

    Toronto has lost six consecutive opening-round series in the NHL postseason, and it has not won a playoff series since 2004.

    The Leafs did not look like they would break that dreadful streak in Game 1 against Tampa Bay, as they conceded on seven occasions.

    Tampa Bay got off to a fantastic start with three first-period goals. The visitors responded to a pair of second-period tallies from the Leafs with a trio of their own scores.

    The Lightning looked like a franchise that has been to three straight Stanley Cup Finals. They know how to take care of a road playoff game, and the fear in Toronto is that they could do the same thing on Thursday.

    Toronto needs to display fight on home ice to reverse the poor morale that set in after another disappointing playoff loss.

    Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Co. need to draw some confidence from posting three goals against the Lightning. Scoring against the reigning Eastern Conference champion is not impossible, and if the Leafs play better defense, they could emerge with a victory.

    Plenty of teams have rallied from 2-0 deficits in NHL playoff history, but that type of hole may seem insurmountable to the Leafs and their fans because of their poor postseason luck.

    It feels like an overreaction to call Game 2 a must-win contest, but that is what it feels like for the Leafs to get on the board in the series, especially since wins could be hard to come by in Tampa, where the Lightning went 28-8-5 in the regular season.

Colorado in Search of Bounce Back Against Seattle

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    DENVER, COLORADO - APRIL 18:  Ryan Donato #9 of the Seattle Kraken draws a holding penalty as he skates against Alex Newhook #18 and Josh Manson #42 of the Colorado Avalanche in the first period of Game One in the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena on April 18, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    The Seattle-Colorado Game 1 matchup looked like the biggest mismatch on paper.

    The Avs won the Stanley Cup last year, and the Kraken were appearing in their first playoff contest, but that did not affect the second-year franchise, as they won 3-1 in Denver.

    Colorado tried everything it could to break through the Kraken defense, but former Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer turned away all but one of the 35 shots he faced.

    Seven of those attempts came off Nathan MacKinnon’s stick. His active approach in the attacking zone is what gives the Avs hope to pile on the goals in Game 2.

    Seattle put a lot into Game 1 on the defensive side of the ice. Colorado’s goal should be to wear down the Kraken defense with attacking-zone possession and a plethora of shots.

    Valeri Nichushkin, Mikko Rantanen and Evan Rodrigues all had at least three shots in Game 1. The trio and MacKinnon combined for 19 of Colorado’s 35 attempts on net.

    Colorado needs the same level of shot production out of those players, plus a little more from others, to keep up a relentless attack on Grubauer.

    Seattle needs to replicate its Game 1 approach. The Kraken scored within the first five minutes of every period, and they put a ton of effort into defending in front of Grubauer.

    The visitors should try to get out to early advantages yet again to make Colorado play under pressure. The Avs will be much freer on the ice if they score first and pepper Grubauer with pucks.

    A Seattle victory would produce the most surprising series line of the eight first-round matchups, but a Colorado win will have us thinking that the reigning champs have turned things around and Game 1 was just an outlier to its playoff form.

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