It seems as thought the Boston Bruins have the Toronto Maple Leafs number again this season, and they’ll look to continue that right into the postseason. It will be the second straight postseason that these two teams will meet in the first round. The Bruins won last year’s series in seven games before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.
The Maple Leafs hope that its fate is different this postseason than it was last season. The biggest addition to the Leafs roster from last year is John Tavares, who was with the New York Islanders last season. The Bruins have added some more pieces themselves like Jaroslav Halak and Charlie Coyle, to name a few. The young kids for the Maple Leafs are a year older and will look to build off of last year’s experience.
The Regular Season Series Rundown
These two teams met four time in the regular season with the Boston Bruins taking three of four from the Maple Leafs. Two of the three wins by the Bruins came rather easily winning by a score of 5-1 and 6-3. The two teams had their series finished up by Jan. 2, which is a little early to be finished up with a division rival especially when one team is trying to gain points on the other for playoff positioning. Jaroslav Halak started three of the four games and Tuukka Rask started the final game of season series by picking up a 3-2 win.
The Maple Leafs managed to pick up a 4-2 win at home in the second game of the season series on Nov. 26, 2018. Brad Marchand managed to have seven assists for the Bruins in the season series, while Mitch Marner had one goal and four assists for five points. The Leafs need to find out a way to slow down the Bruins or they will be hitting the golf course after another first round exit.
Special Teams Breakdown
The Bruins had a lethal power play this season finishing third in the NHL (25.9%). They finished with 65 power play goals, which was good for third in the NHL. They also gave up 15 short-handed goals to the opposition while on the power play. The team could possibly have been better but David Pastrnak missed some time with an injury. The penalty kill was another story for the Bruins, who finished in the middle of the pack (79.9%). It could have been worse but the team added seven short-handed goals to their penalty kill resume.
The Maple Leafs overall special team play was just okay. The power play finished the season converting 21.8% of its opportunities and that was good enough for a top 10 finish even though they allowed nine short-handed goals against. The penalty kill was not so hot only killing 79.9% of the penalties they took. The Leafs only scored five short-handed goals on the season. The special teams will need to be vastly improved if they want a shot at being competitive in this series.
The key player to this series for the Boston Bruins is goaltender, Tuukka Rask. Rask and Jaroslav Halak were splitting time after a slow start by Rask, who managed to make the starter’s net his own during the season. Rask should see some shots since the Leafs manage to average just over 33 shots per game. The goalie will need to step his game up and make the saves when called upon to keep his team in the game. Rask can’t afford to leave too many rebounds for second chances because the Leafs will clean those up and put them in the back of the net for some goals.
Mitch Marner is the Maple Leafs’ key player for the series. Some people would disagree and say John Tavares since he was the big offseason acquisition. If Marner is using his speed and playmaking ability then he find the guys that are wide open like Tavares for the easy goal. Tavares could benefit immensely from his linemate having a good series and playing to the best of his ability since it will make that line so much harder to play against. Marner needs to use his speed and vision when he is on the ice to find a teammate so they can get good chances towards Rask.
The Bruins’ top line needs to get hot again in the playoffs for this team to go far. The line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak combined for 260 points in the regular season. This is the same line that got hot last postseason and carried them to a series win over these Maple Leafs. This line can also go up against the Tavares line since they have Bergeron on the line who is one of the best two-way centers in the game right now.If this line can get hot, it takes the pressure off of the other lines to think that they need to score even time they are on the ice. It will also make the chess game of which line is covering which line a more difficult choice for the coaches to make.
Frederik Andersen is the x-factor for the Maple Leafs. The defense is not the best in the NHL and the Leafs will give up good chances and turn the puck over. Andersen was good at erasing those mistakes at times during this season, but at other times, he has allowed some soft goals. The soft goals can’t be allowed or happen as often because he needs to keep his team in each game to try to pull out a series win.
The Bruins Take the Series If…
They can manage to neutralize the speed and transition game of the Maple Leafs. The Leafs have some young kids that can skate so if the Bruins can slow them down then it should be easier to deal with the rest of the lineup. The Bruins will need to get some scoring depth even if the top line manages to go off because one line won’t be able to carry a team all postseason. Rask will need to make the easy saves and find a way to stay focused to track the puck and not allow any soft goals.
The Maple Leafs Take the Series If…
They use their speed and transition game to their advantage and not let the Bruins slow them down coming through the neutral zone. The Maple Leafs want to back the defenders into their own zone by using their speed and having their feet moving. The Leafs can’t get wrapped up in the after-the-whistle shenanigans, if there are any in the series, especially if Marchand is on the ice. The Leafs want to play a disciplined game and stay out of the penalty box. The biggest key to winning the series is playing solid team defense and getting timely saves from Andersen.
Bruins-Maple Leafs Series Prediction
This will not be an easy series for either team and it will go the distance of seven games so be ready for some action-packed playoff hockey. The Bruins will take the series and advance to the next round. The Bruins will get the better goaltending and play better team defense to remain red hot and be one of the remaining right teams in round two.