Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8, 3rd in Atlantic) vs Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 2nd in Atlantic)
Regular Season Series: 3 – 1 Boston with 16 goals scored and 1-3 for Toronto with 10 goals scored
The Bruins walk into a very familiar situation where they have had extraordinary results. This being the 3rd time in the last 4 seasons the Bruins and the Leafs have met in the 1st round of the playoffs, with the Bruins taking 2 of the 3 so far in 7 games – one of which is the heartbreaking 3 goal collapse in the 3rd period. The Bruins look to keep things that way and not allow the Leafs to gain any momentum.
The Leafs, on the other hand, are looking to get over the 1st round playoff hump for the first time since 2004 and the beating the Bruins would be the best way to do it. But the Leafs went 1-3 against the Bruins in the season surrendering 16 goals, averaging 34 shots a game and going 3/8 on the Powerplay, which 37.5%. The Leafs bring a lot of new faces into this matchup or a lot of guys who have some experience this season. Players like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Jake Muzzin, Frederik Gauthier, John Tavares, and Trevor Moore all either have seasoned a bit and become an integral part of the core or are veterans who will play massive roles in the success or detriment of this team.
Brad Marchand – Marchand tallied 100 points for the first time in his career this season and he looks better than ever. His ability to annoy and put tremendous amounts of points make him the perfect playoff player. He will be one of the players to watch in this post-season and if the Leafs don’t find a way to contain Marchand, they may be watching the second round of the playoffs from home.
Auston Matthews – Matthews missed 14 games with a shoulder injury and yet still was able to total 73 points and score 37 goals. But last year in the playoffs he went dry and this is the reason why he is being chosen as a game changer. When Matthews is on his game and dangerous, the Leafs can roll out 3 lines that can score and with the arrival of Tavares some eyes might be taken off of Matthews and put on the Tavares, Marner, Hyman line. If Matthews brings his game this series turns interesting and could see the Bruins watching the second round of the playoffs from their couches.
Tuukka Rask started the season off very low and seemingly lost the number 1 spot to backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak. But after a 19 game point streak where he truly regained his form, there were no more questions. Rask finished 27-12-5, with a 2.42 GAA and .912 save percentage. While Halak put in a solid effort when called upon to hold down the fort, finishing 22-11-4 with a 2.34 GAA and .922 save percentage.
This is a far cry from the Leafs goaltending. In fact, the exact opposite. Frederik Andersen started the season on fire and was just about in every conversation that had the name Vezina in it. But Andersen struggled heavily in March and April adding some serious question marks to the crease, especially considering the struggles backup netminder Garret Sparks has had – Eventually being sent away from the team – Michael Hutchinson will serve as Andersen’s backup. Andersen still managed to finish with pretty good numbers. Andersen finished 36-16-7, with a 2.77 GAA and .917 save percentage.
Advantage: Goaltending overall goes to Boston with Halak and Rask. But If we’re talking head to head Andersen vs Rask, it comes down to which Andersen shows up.
The Bruins are top line heavy after that players drop off considerably. The Bruins have Krecji who has had a revolving door of wingers this season. But rely heavily on that top line and it’s not to say that others are bad players they just aren’t on the level of reliance or scoring ability as Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron. Scoring significantly tales off after the top line for the Bruins but their style of hockey is conducive to that.
The Leafs, on the other hand, are three lines deep of scoring. One of the highest scoring teams in the league during the regular season. The question on the Bruins mind must be who do we defend the most Tavares/Marner/Hyman or Matthews/Kapanen/Johnsson – all 20 or more goal scorers.
Advantage – Leafs, because there offense is deadly, especially if the powerplay is working and it did versus the Bruins all season.
Bruins have a good defense especially if you’re talking on the defensive side of the game. Offensively not the best but defensively one of the top defenses in the League. Anchored by Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy, through Torey Krug and Kevan Miller, then the 3 remaining in Matt Grezelcyk, Brandon Carlo and John Moore.
The Leafs have struggled defensively but look to turn the tides in the playoffs. Having all hands on deck for the first time in over a month will help with the defensive play for sure. Anchored by Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey, through Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev and down to the X-factors on the Leafs defense Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott. Those 2 will be the factors on how well the Leafs defense play.
Advantage – Boston
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk — David Krejci — Marcus Johansson
Danton Heinen — Charlie Coyle — Chris Wagner
David Backes — Joakim Nordstrom — Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara — Charlie McAvoy
Brandon Carlo — Torey Krug
Matt Grzelcyk — Kevan Miller
Scratched: Karson Kuhlman, Steven Kampfer, Connor Clifton
Injuries: Sean Kuraly (shoulder) and John Moore (Upper-Body)
Zach Hyman — John Tavares — Mitchell Marner
Andreas Johnsson — Auston Matthews — William Nylander
Patrick Marleau — Nazem Kadri — Kasperi Kapanen
Trevor Moore — Frederik Gauthier — Connor Brown
Ron Hainsey — Morgan Rielly
Nikita Zaitsev — Jake Muzzin
Jake Gardiner — Travis Dermott
Scratched: Calle Rosen, Tyler Ennis, Nic Petan
- Bruins win if the top line of Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron can how the same ability to tear the Leafs defense apart again this year.
- The Leafs win if Frederik Andersen comes back to form and gives the Leafs some much needed solid goaltending.
Final Thought/ Numbers:
Boston has allowed the 3rd lowest goals against in the league this year with a 2.59 per game. Only behind the Islander (2.33) and Stars (2.44). This will be the test for Toronto who is 4th best in goals for in the league, which sits 3.49 per game.
Frederik Andersen sat at 2.56 GAA and .924 save percentage through 50 games. But in his last 9, allowed 3.85 goals per game with an .878 save percentage.