(Photo credit: Michael Miller)
Toronto entered this season with expectations of making the playoffs and getting past the first round after last season’s early exit at the hands of the Capitals. The Bruins lost out to Ottawa in the first round through six games last year.
Both Toronto and Boston are arguably in the top five of favourites for the cup this year and it seems unfair that one of these sides will not get past round one. However, that being said both sides will look at this series as an opportunity to put themselves at the forefront of contenders - no other first-round series has the quality of these two sides.
Maple Leafs win 3-1-0
Nov. 10: Maple Leafs 3, Bruins 2 (OT)
Nov. 11: Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 1
Feb. 3: Bruins 4, Maple Leafs 1
Feb. 24: Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 3
The Bruins finished the season fourth in the overall NHL rankings with 112 points - one shy of Tampa who finished first in the Atlantic. The team boasted the second best defense in the league, conceding just 210 goals. Boston started the season slowly but were arguably the NHL's best side from December as they boasted a 38-11-8 record.
Toronto looked more like a Mike Babcock side this season as they finished in the playoffs with bundles of time to spare en route to a franchise record points total of 105. The Leafs boast the league’s second-best power play and also rank top ten in penalty kill.
Patrice Bergeron’s four-goal game against Carolina in January felt particularly special and optimized the dominance of arguably the best line in hockey.
Freddie Anderson took the Toronto franchise record of wins with 38 this season - and it is finally nice to see the Leafs have a goalie they can count on to get them wins.
Brad Marchand netted 34 goals and 85 points in just 67 games this season for the Bruins - if he played every game this season he would have been projected to score 104 points.
As a UFA this summer James van Riemsdyk will be delighted with his body of work this season as he netted 36 goals for the Leafs. Mitch Marner put up 69 points for the Leafs to take the overall points lead.
Players to watch
Patrice Bergeron - The Canadian center has proven time and time again that he is the best defensive center-man in the entire NHL. The Leafs will need to make his life hell if they want to beat the Bruins but it has been an almost impossible feat this season to shut down Bergeron’s line.
Auston Matthews - Injuries derailed Matthews season as he could not keep up with the NHL scoring race. However, the Arizona-born player will be the talk of Toronto during the playoffs as the team will look at him to give them a spark when they need it most.
Mike Babcock was probably hoping to get Tampa Bay in the first round because their style matches the Leafs. Toronto now has to go up against a high skill team that will throw its body around. Oh, and they have playoff Marchand to deal with.
For Boston, they face a team that has had the better of them over the past couple of seasons but on paper at least, the Bruins arguably have the better of the Leafs. That being said Boston will rely heavily on their Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrňák line - so if Toronto can shut that down then they have a great chance of taking the win.
It really is difficult to pick apart these two teams. But I think the Bruins take the edge in seven games.
|1||Thu, Apr 12||Maple Leafs at Bruins||7 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC, TVA|
|2||Sat, Apr 14||Maple Leafs at Bruins||8 p.m.||NBC, CBC, TVA|
|3||Mon, Apr 16||Bruins at Maple Leafs||7 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC, TVA|
|4||Thu, Apr 19||Bruins at Maple Leafs||7 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC, TVA|
|5*||Sat, Apr 21||Maple Leafs at Bruins||TBD||TBD|
|6*||Mon, Apr 23||Bruins at Maple Leafs||TBD||TBD|
|7*||Wed, Apr 25||Maple Leafs at Bruins||TBD||TBD|