Let’s not child ourselves right here. The Leafs received utterly screwed by the NHL this season. Instead of dealing with the fifth finest workforce in the convention, the Leafs will as a substitute be dealing with the second finest workforce in the Boston Bruins. In a league that really made sense, that wouldn’t occur, however that is the NHL, so every little thing is as silly as doable.
Regardless, the Leafs are getting their lengthy awaited rematch towards the Bruins, with an opportunity to exorcise the demons that also exist in 5 gamers on this workforce. It ought to be one in every of the finest collection in the first spherical, a lot to the pleasure of hockey followers, and the dismay of Leafs and Bruins followers.
Despite being the larger seed, the Leafs went Three-1 towards Boston, with all three wins coming with out Auston Matthews in the lineup. So, I’m telling you there’s an opportunity. Boston may be the higher workforce total, however it’s not insane to say that the Leafs may beat them.
So, let’s have a look at what the Leafs need to do to beat the Bruins.
Shut down the Bergeron line
Among traces with at the very least 400 5v5 minutes collectively, the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line has the fourth highest CF% at 58.01%, and the 15th finest xGF% at 53.5% (though it ought to be famous that the Bozak line is fifth and the Matthews line is 14th). It’s one in every of the finest traces in hockey, and it is sensible. Bergeron is one in every of, if not the finest, two manner facilities in the league, and he appears to have discovered his scoring contact in the final couple years, whereas Marchand has turn into a constant 30-40 objective scorer these previous few years, and David Pastrnak is one in every of the finest up-and-coming wingers (despite the fact that he’s already there) in the sport right this moment.
Shutting down this line shall be important to a Leafs victory, or at the very least, containing them. The trio has a complete of 99 targets, which is 36.67% of the Bruins targets this season. After Pastrnak’s 35 targets, Marchand’s 34, and Bergeron’s 30, the subsequent highest scorer is David Krejci with 17 targets (though Rick Nash has 21 targets between the Rangers and Bruins this season).
The Leafs haven’t precisely achieved that with success this season. In 4 video games, Bergeron has 2 targets, 2 assists, and a 61.86% CF%, and Pastrnak has 2 targets and a couple of assists and a 60.38% CF%, whereas Marchand has 2 targets, 1 assists, and a 59.78% CF% in three video games (he was suspended for Boston’s Four-1 win).
While the Bruins have the finest line on this collection, an argument might be made that the Leafs have the subsequent finest 4, and that’s the place they’ll beat the Bruins. Assuming that Babcock shall be matching the Kadri line laborious to the Bergeron line, the finest we will hope is that they will comprise them to minimal offense, and the Leafs can throw out any of their different three traces towards any of the different three Bruins traces, and possibly win the matchup. It definitely wouldn’t kill the Leafs in the event that they didn’t pull this off, however it might make victory so much simpler for them.
Marner’s Time to Shine
In the early a part of his profession, Marner appears to actually like taking part in the Bruins. In eight profession video games, Marner has 13 factors towards them, together with his first profession objective, and 9 factors in Four video games this season. He additionally had a 60.49% 5v5 CF% in these 4 video games, with two of these video games approaching the shutdown line vs. the Bergeron line (largely).
I say Mitch Marner will play an enormous function as a result of how he performs towards the Bruins high line shall be essential on this collection. If he can’t solely maintain his personal defensively, but in addition proceed his sturdy season offensively, that might primarily neutralize the Bergeron line. He doesn’t have to dominate, however play nicely sufficient to maintain them off.
This isn’t to discredit both Patrick Marleau or Nazem Kadri, however extra to level out that Marner might be the principal cog on that line, so he’ll play an enormous function in it.
Frederik Andersen Needs To Play Like Frederik Andersen
Yeah, yeah, this isn’t actually a shock. Obviously if we see October Freddy, this shall be a straightforward sweep, but when we see November onward Freddy, this shall be a lot nearer.
It’s secure to say that Andersen has been the finest participant on the workforce this season, with Marner being the just one shut to him. Andersen not solely received the Leafs to their finest season in franchise historical past, however he additionally did it with some fairly dangerous protection in entrance of him all season. Like most goalies, he’ll play an enormous function in serving to the Leafs win the collection.
If he falters, the Leafs don’t stand an opportunity. If he’s common, will probably be a lot nearer. If he’s stellar, it’s laborious to see the Leafs not pulling out the win.
That Right Side of the Blueline Should Try and Not Suck
Now, we handle the Leafs Achilles heal, that being their blueline, extra particularly the proper facet. While the left facet boasts Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner, who each set profession highs with 52 factors every, and newcomer Travis Dermott, who already appears like a seasoned professional, the proper facet leaves so much to be desired.
Between Ron Hainsey, who, after his first postseason motion at 36, has been labored to the floor by Babcock; Nikita Zaitsev, who has had a lower than preferrred sophomore season; and Roman Polak, who was already getting his ankles damaged earlier than he actually received his ankle damaged final playoffs; the proper facet is terrible, to put it evenly. It doesn’t assist that Babcock doesn’t appear to understand this, and continues to run with it, even when switching one in every of Rielly, Gardiner, or Dermott to the left facet, and bringing in Connor Carrick could be far more optimum.
But, that is what they received, and that is what they’ve to work with. Rielly and Hainsey have been the shutdown pair all season, however as Hainsey will get worse and worse, that may be laborious to pull off.
This protection core would possibly simply determine the collection. If they’re strong, the Leafs ought to be advantageous, but when they carry out as badly as they’ve some nights, we’re in for a brief collection.
The energy play is one in every of the clear benefits that the Leafs have over the Bruins. This season, the Leafs have an absurd 10.88 xGF/60 on the energy play, which is 1.9 larger than the second place Carolina Hurricanes. Meanwhile, the Bruins sit in 16th with a 7.51 xGF/60. The Leafs energy play is a deadly weapon like no different, even when Babcock decides to randomly toss Leo Komarov on there.
If the Leafs really need to give the Bruins issues, capitalizing on their energy play alternatives shall be the finest manner to do so, contemplating all of the choices that the Leafs have on each models. Easier mentioned than achieved, particularly since Boston has a 6.17 xGA/60 on the penalty kill, which is first in the league. So, whereas the Leafs are good on the PP, the Bruins are good on the PK.
It shall be an attention-grabbing battle, and whoever wins this one would possibly simply win the collection as an entire.