By: Matthew Cunha
The Boston Bruins limped their way down the stretch going 1-4 in their final 5 games and as a result will have to play the 105 point Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. From analyzing the matchup, all factors point to this being an exciting, high scoring, 7 game series that may be more the Bruins bargained for in the first round.
Team Stats: The Leafs scored 270 goals (Bruins – 267) and gave up 230 (Bruins – 211). That ranks T3rd in goals for, and 12th in goals against. The Bruins ranked 6th in goals for and 4th in goals against. The Maple Leafs had the 2nd most productive power play at 25% and the T10th highest penalty kill efficiency at 81.4%. The Bruins rank 4th in power play percentage, and third in penalty kill percentage.
History: The Leafs took three out of four from the Bruins this season and have won 8 out of 9 from the Bruins in regular season matchups. Two of those games came early into the season before the Bruins hit their stride. The Bruins took care of business on February 3rd beating the Leafs 4-1. Toronto would get the next one on February 24th, with a 4-3 win after a controversial goal beat Rask in the final minute of the game. This is their 14th meeting in playoff history with the only recent series happening in 2013. The Leafs had one of the most epic collapses in sports history squandering a 4-1 lead in the third period as the Bruins won game 7 in OT 5-4.
Forwards – The Maple Leafs have a deep, deep three line punch. It all starts with their first line center and 2nd year player Auston Matthews. The speedy Matthews scored 34 goals and 29 assists in just 62 games this season. He is joined on a line with William Nylander and Zach Hyman who have a combined 32 goals. Unlike the Bruins who have their top scorers, (Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrank) on the same line, the Leafs are spread out creating a resilient attack for other teams defense pairings. It will be interesting to see how Bruce Cassidy handles this as he likes to routinely stick Chara-McAvoy out their vs the other team’s best line. The leafs 2nd line of Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, and Mitch Marner has a combined 81 goals with all three having more than 20 goals. Their 3rd line accounted for 61 goals including 36 from James Van Riemsdyk. Their fourth line features ex-Montreal Canadiens and deadline acquisition Tomas Plekanec. Their forward depth is Maple Leafs biggest attribute and could pose substantial problems for the Bruins.
Defense – If their forward depth is their strength, their defensive depth is a little lacking. First paring Ron Hainsey is a 12+- and is alongside Morgan Rielly. Reilly has 6 goals and 46 assists, but is also a -4 despite Toronto’s +40 goal differential. 2nd pairing Jake Gardiner has been the most consistent with 52 points and a +9 rating. He is joined alongside Nikita Zaitsev. Their bottom pairing of Roman Polak and Travis Dermott combine for a solid +21. Overall this group is not bad, but lacks a clear #1 pairing able of playing 30 minutes a games and sometimes plus like you will likely see from Chara-McAvoy.
Goalie – The Leafs will rollout Frederik Andersen in net. This season, Andersen .918 save percentage and allowed 2.81 goals against in 66 game played for the Leafs. Andersen went 38-21-5 on the season. Andersen equaled his career save percentage this season, allowing more goals a game then his 2.55 career average (Rask, 34-14-5, .917, 2.36). Andersen took the Ducks to the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and was game away of taking them to the Cup before they blew a 3-2 lead vs the Blackhawks as he allowed more than four goals in the final four games. Andersen lost his job in 2016, before being implemented in the first round with a 2-0 series deficit. He brought the Ducks back to a 3-2 series lead before losing their last two games and being traded to the Leafs in the offseason. Last year, him and the Leafs lost in the first round 4 game to 2 against the Capitals. Andersen has shown some ability in these situations, but has also chocked.
Important Injuries – None
Bruins Probable Lines – No Ryan Donato for the Bruins in game 1. Riley Nash is still out with an injury, with Rick Nash coming back in.
(68GP-34G-51A-85PTS) – (64-30-33-63) – (82-35-45-80) | Total Goals: 102
(70-16-27-43) – (64-17-27-44) – (71-21-13-34) | Total Goals: 54
(77-16-31-47) – (60-10-1-11) – (57-14-19-33) | Total Goals: 40
(82-10-12-22) – (75-6-8-14) – (18-2-4-5) | Total Goals: 18
Chara – McAvoy
(73-7-17-24) – (63-7-25-32) | Total Goals: 14
Krug – Miller
(76-14-45-59) – (68-1-15-16) | Total Goals: 15
Grzelcyk – McQuaid
(61-3-12-15) – (38-1-3-4) | Total Goals: 4
(34-14-5, .917, 2.36)
Consensus: The Bruins have a better defense and a slightly (not much) better goalie, but the forwards on Toronto are a little bit deeper. These are the only two teams who have three thirty plus goal scorers (Matthews, Kadri, Van Riemsdyk, Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak). The Bruins have them on one line, the Leafs have them separated. Both teams play fast, and it should create for some exciting high scoring games in this series. At the end of the day, the Bruins slight edge in back and in net has to give them advantage when the game tightens in pressure situations. However, the Leafs will require a little bit too much effort for the Bruins with the Lightning likely awaiting for the next round.
Bruins Win in 7
Regardless of Anything, it is playoff time!!! Get ready with these amazing videos