It might have been just an unfortunate coincidence but the Toronto Maple Leafs' recent dip in form happened to correspond with the end of the William Nylander contract holdout. Whether or not he was worth the money he was holding out for, he got it, and now it's time for this team to show how potent they are.
However in Nylander's first 5 games back in the lineup the Leafs lost 4 of them, including a 4-3 OT loss this past Saturday in Florida to these very Panthers. Mitch Marner led a spectacular 3rd period comeback scoring the tying goal twice, and getting the Leafs to overtime.
It looked like the Leafs had all the momentum with a rowdy group of away fans in the expensive seats making it feel like a Leafs home game. But an odd man break led to Aleksander Barkov completing a hat trick for the win.
Now tonight on Thursday December 20th, the Leafs get the Panthers in a rematch at home in a head to head series where the home team has won the last 7 games.
The win on Saturday snapped a 4 game losing streak for the Panthers who followed it up with a 5-2 road win in Buffalo on Tuesday. The Leafs also played a road game Tuesday and may have finally found the chemistry they were looking for, scoring 3 goals in a 6 minute span in the first period en route to a 7-2 smacking of the New Jersey Devils.
The Panthers are .500 team overall with a record slightly under .500 on the road, but more importantly they have a negative 14 goal differential on the road so far this season while the Leafs have a plus 12 on home ice.
Furthermore the Leafs have covered the puck line in 6 of their last 7 home games. The Panthers have lost by two or more goals in 5 of their last 8 road games.