The National Hockey League’s playoff format is a merciless, snarling beast.
Rather than the Maple Leafs being rewarded for his or her best-ever common season with a chill, cake-walky first-round opponent when the playoffs get going subsequent week, the staff will discover itself staring down both the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning of their opening sequence which, frankly, isn’t good.
Neither presents a beneficial matchup for Toronto, as each juggernauts have taken their turns wanting like the runaway finest staff in the East this season and each, at occasions, have boasted the on-ice dominance of a Stanley Cup front-runner. Boston and Tampa Bay have legit Hart trophy candidates main their respective golf equipment, gamers in the working for a number of different main awards, lights-out goaltending, and 6-foot-7-plus behemoths manning the blue strains. Not excellent.
Earlier, we checked out what a possible Leafs-Lightning matchup appears to be like like. Here’s what a gathering with the Bruins might deliver:
Who had the edge? Despite having the edge in wins and head-to-head factors this yr, the Maple Leafs had been outshot by the Bruins in three of 4 matchups this season—although not by quite a bit. Toronto took an additional time victory and a Four-1 win in a back-to-back conflict in November, whereas Boston grabbed a Four-1 win of its personal a pair months later. In the most up-to-date assembly at the finish of February, Toronto claimed the season sequence on a Ron Hainsey objective with underneath two minutes left.
The Leafs maintain a small benefit in the head-to-head showdown this yr (a type of was an additional time win), however that document is thanks largely to the play of Freddie Andersen and Curtis McElhinney, who collectively posted a .921 save proportion in opposition to the Bruins regardless of being out-shot and out-chanced over the 4 contests. It got here down to goaltending in the common season, and that would very properly be the x-factor in the first spherical, too.
Toronto has matched up fairly properly total with Boston in 2017-18, however there’s just a few sides of the Bruins’ make-up that may definitely give the Leafs some issues if the two class in the first spherical.
Cons of a Bruins matchup
Deadly first line. Though they’ve taken a while aside this season as a result of accidents and suspension, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron—the finest all-around ahead on the planet, and Brad Marchand—a reputable Hart Trophy Candidate, have comprised the finest high line in the NHL for the higher a part of this season. Boasting a mix of velocity, immense ability, defensive prowess and next-level feistiness, Toronto should pump quite a lot of its defensive assets into attempting to stymie the trio, and don’t actually have the horses on the again finish to match up with this assassin’s row on a shift-by-shift foundation over a seven-game tilt.
Playoff pedigree. Put into this what you’ll, however there’s completely little question you’d somewhat waltz into the postseason with a roster jacked full of men oozing with Stanley Cup Playoff expertise than one with just a few video games collectively underneath their belts. Unfortunately for the Leafs, they possess the latter and should must tango with a Boston membership with a whole lot of video games of playoff expertise and some Stanley Cup rings in the vault.
Past historical past. Wait, that Game 7 collapse occurred manner again in 2013 and only a few gamers from both roster, particularly Toronto’s, stay. Scratch that.
Pros of a Bruins matchup
Overall offensive depth. As savage as that high unit for the Bruins has been, there’s fairly a dip in manufacturing after the Big three, with a considerable 13 objective drop-off after Bergeron and just one different 20-goal scorer in Rick Nash, whose well being is a giant query mark proper now and who netted most of these tallies as a member of the Rangers. Toronto, on the different hand, boasts three 30-goal guys of their very own and 6 20-goal scorers this season. If the Maple Leafs can shut down (as a lot as potential) the Bruins lethal first line, there’s not an entire lot of fireside energy to deal after that. Rather than stacking the deck and flooding the high unit with its finest offensive weapons like Boston does, Toronto has its wealth unfold over three strong models, together with a second and third line anchored by Nazem Kadri (31 targets) and JVR (36 targets), respectively.
James Van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner. Both JVR and Marner have torched the Bruins this yr in contrast to some other forwards from throughout the league have. Marner has been particularly dominant in opposition to Boston, posting three targets and 9 factors in simply 4 video games in opposition to the B’s—4 factors higher than what some other skater did versus the Bruins this season. Van Riemsdyk, in the meantime, completed tied as the second-most productive skater in opposition to Boston this season, netting 5 factors and three targets, together with a game-winner, in 4 contests.
Mike Babcock. Dude has a Stanley Cup ring, a pair Olympic gold medals, and an ass-load of Stanley Cup Playoff expertise. Bruce Cassidy has 12 playoff video games and a .333 wining proportion behind the bench in the postseason. I’ll take Babs.