Though the psychological scars of 2013 could be painful for followers in Toronto, the present version of the Maple Leafs couldn’t be extra totally different than the roster that fell quick in opposition to the Bruins the final time these two Original Six squads met within the post-season. Boston remains to be the favourite on this collection, however Toronto has gained seven of the previous eight conferences between the 2 franchises. So what wins out: present common season success, or playoff savvy? It’s going to be enjoyable to see the outcomes. Perhaps one of the fascinating wrinkles right here is that for the previous few months, these two groups mainly knew they have been going to play one another within the first spherical. Only a scorching Boston end and Tampa Bay swoon put the matter doubtful for every week or so. The Bruins and Leafs know one another in and out and the psychological warfare began earlier than the matchup was even made official.
How They Win: When Patrice Bergeron is wholesome, the Bruins have the most effective line in hockey. Full cease. With Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on the flanks, it’s a line that possesses virtually each important successful issue. Led by the resurgent Zdeno Chara and rookie Charlie McAvoy, Boston is a defensive juggernaut as nicely, displaying a capability to close down even essentially the most high-flying offensive groups. As they confirmed once they earned at the least some extent in 18 consecutive video games – after which adopted that up by successful 5 of their subsequent six – as soon as the Bruins get on a roll, they’re virtually inconceivable to cease. There have been some early hiccups, however Tuukka Rask has been superb since late November, an enormous issue within the Bruins being probably the greatest defensive groups within the NHL. And after he was one of many worst backups within the league final season, Anton Khudobin has been probably the greatest this yr.
How They Lose: After their first line and protection corps, the Bruins have struggled to seek out secondary scoring, which is exactly why they picked up Rick Nash on the commerce deadline. Even if Bergeron is again and 100-percent wholesome within the playoffs, Boston’s lack of push past the highest line creates large considerations for coach Bruce Cassidy. Riding one line within the common season is one factor, however is it sustainable for a protracted playoff run? History means that it is vitally, very tough. The Bruins have truly obtained some important manufacturing from their younger gamers, however relying too closely on them can be a dangerous proposition. Rask has been good however will be liable to the occasional meltdown.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
How They Win: The Maple Leafs have a harmful, high-octane offense that’s among the many most explosive within the league. And that’s actually fascinating, contemplating they didn’t have a single participant among the many league’s prime 35 scorers. Injuries robbed Auston Matthews of a spot among the many prime 10, so that could be a issue, however the lack of 1 shining offensive star is a testomony to Toronto’s general depth of expertise on offense. And what sort of groups win within the playoffs? The ones with a variety of depth. Frederik Andersen has offered Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltending and, even with Matthews out for prolonged durations of time, the Leafs have been superb within the faceoff circle. They’re one of many league’s higher penalty killing groups due to the addition of 2017 Stanley Cup winner Ron Hainsey.
How They Lose: There appears to be an actual disconnect between this group and consistency of effort. The Leafs have been liable to massive swings in momentum, trying like an elite group that might contend for the Cup for a time period, then regressing right into a fragile group for a spell. Their defensive shortcomings are nicely documented, and their depth on the blueline is suspect. This is a group that depends far an excessive amount of on its goaltending and is usually outshot by opponents. Even although the Leafs usually begin out with the puck as a result of they’re so good within the faceoff circle, the fact is that they’re solely a middling possession group. And, as has been the case for greater than a yr now, the possibilities they do hand over are usually of the 10-bell selection, inflicting coach Mike Babcock many nights of consternation.
Five Things To Watch
1. Clash of the titans: When the Bruins beat the Leafs in early February, Selke Trophy grasp Bergeron locked down Matthews mercilessly, dealing the spectacular sophomore his worst possession recreation ever. No doubt that can be a matchup that Bruins coach Cassidy seeks out and with home-ice benefit, he’ll get the prospect within the majority of video games.
2. Behind the bench: When it involves teaching, Cassidy has an enormous problem on his palms. Toronto’s Babcock has gained each essential title there’s: a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal (twice), the worlds, world juniors and World Cup of Hockey. The final time Cassidy obtained previous the second spherical as a head coach was in 2000, when his Trenton Titans misplaced the ECHL Kelly Cup to Peoria.
three. Charlie on the spot: One of Boston’s key defenseman, McAvoy has simply returned from practically a month on the shelf with a knee harm. Despite being a rookie, McAvoy’s puck-moving means and physicality make him a big-time menace on the again finish. In 4 video games after the harm, he logged large minutes, however had no factors and a minus-6 score. Is he really 100 %?
four. Waves of blue: Simply put, each Toronto line is harmful. Matthews, Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk all play on totally different models, whereas even the fourth line has the speedy and clutch Kasperi Kapanen. Boston’s bottom-six is much more amorphous and whereas the B’s have some nice younger choices (Ryan Donato gained’t play Game 1 as a result of there’s a lot youth accessible), that cohesiveness isn’t there like it’s for Toronto.
5. The Ides of Marchand: He’s one of the controversial gamers within the NHL, but additionally one of the gifted. Boston’s Marchand goes to have an effect on this collection, however it stays to be seen whether or not it will likely be in game-winning targets or suspensions (possibly each?). Either approach, control the elite agitator.
THN Series Prediction: Bruins in 7.
LINE COMBOS, DEFENSE PAIRINGS & GOALIES