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NHL - US Sports: Leafs ready for Lightning challenge

Head coach Sheldon Keefe says the Toronto Maple Leafs are ready to do battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Leafs, 10/1 to win the Stanley Cup, enjoyed a record-setting regular season recording the franchise record for wins (54) and points (115).

Lightning going for three in a row

Keefe's side finished second in the Atlantic Division (54-21-7), five points ahead of the Lightning (51-23-8) who are bidding to three-peat as Stanley Cup winners.

When the puck drops on Monday, the Leafs will aim to win a best-of-seven series for the first time since 2004, a challenge Keefe believes his team are ready for.

Toronto head into the best-of-seven series in good form having gone 7-2-1 in their final 10 games of the regular season - the Lightning ended well too going 7-3-0.

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Leafs forward Auston Matthews finished the season as the league's leading goal-scorer for a second season in a row with 60 in 73 games, with an impressive 44 of the strikes coming at even-strength.

In addition to Matthews (106), 12 other Toronto players set NHL career highs in points and the Leafs led the league with a 27.3 per cent powerplay, while Toronto went 2-2-0 against the Lightning in the regular season.

Keefe ready for massive challenge

Keefe said to the media: "It's a massive challenge, it goes without saying. Back-to-back champs. They have elite players at all positions, great depth, great experience, obviously, so it's a great challenge.

"When I look at our group, I think the harder the better, I think that's what we need. We have great belief in our own room, we're ready for a battle."

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