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Bruins/Maple Leafs Series Preview

Photo Credit: AP/Michael Dwyer

Playoff hockey is here! The Boston Bruins will face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Bruins will be making their second trip to the postseason with head coach Bruce Cassidy. Boston struggled at the beginning of the year, but started to turn things around once winter game.

They were one of if not the best team in the NHL over the majority of the 2018 portion of the season. They did however lose four of their last five games.

Boston looks to make a deeper playoff run after being eliminated in six games by the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are also making their second straight trip to the playoffs. Toronto has seen a major turn around ever since drafting superstar forward Auston Mathews during the 2016 NHL draft.

Like the Bruins, the Maple Leafs are very young but have veteran leaders such as long time San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau who they acquired during free agency.

The Maple Leafs were eliminated in six games by the Washington Capitals in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, however many on the team feel they probably should have won that series which saw five overtimes.

The Bruins and Leafs finished in second and third place respectively in the Atlantic Division.

The winner of this series will face either the New Jersey Devils or Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

Schedule: Via CBS Sports 

Game 1, Thursday, April 12:  Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. — NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Game 2, Saturday, April 14:  Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. – NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Game 3, Monday, April 16: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. — NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Game 4, Thursday, April 19: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. — CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
*Game 5, Saturday, April 21: *Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, TBD
*Game 6, Monday, April 23: *Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, TBD
*Game 7, Wednesday, April 25: *Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, TBD

Recent history:

This marks the first time these two have met in the postseason since their thrilling seven games series back in 2013. The Bruins staged a huge comeback in third period of Game 7, coming back from a 4-1 deficit to  win the series in overtime.

The Maple Leafs won the 2017-2018 regular season series 3-1. Boston’s one victory was a 4-1 rout at TD Garden on Feb, 3.

Big guns: 

The Bruins are lead by a monster first line that is arguably the best in the NHL. The trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak who all cracked thirty goals this season.

The Bruins also have one of the best defensive pairs in the game with Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. Chara seems to be an ageless wonder who even at age 41 managed a +22 season with 24 points. Skating alongside Chara is star rookie Charlie McAvoy who has lived up to the hype and then some. The rookie had 32 points with a +20 rating on the ice.

It’s no secret that the the Maple Leafs offense runs through Auston Mathews. The superstar recorded a 34 goal season but has managed to get the rest of his team involved in the scoring in year two. The team loves playing with him and when he isn’t doing the scoring himself, he is setting up his team mates.

James Van Riemsdyk lead the team with 36 goals but be sure to keep an eye on Mitchell Marner who recorded a whopping 46 assists.

Before the season i’m sure thinking Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey being top defenseman would have seemed foolish, but the two have been very solid on the blue line for the Leafs.

X factors: 

The Bruins trade deadline acquisitions should all make a significant impact at some point in this series. Everyone knows what Rick Nash can do when he gets hot, but Nick Holden and Tommy Wingels will both be important.

With Brandon Carlo out for the playoffs due to a nasty leg injury, depth at the Bruins blue line is a concern. Holden played some solid minutes for the Rangers and could make a difference as the series goes on.

If you want to win a Stanley Cup, you need depth scoring in the playoffs, and Tommy Wingles is a really good depth scorer. He’s not going to wow you with splash plays, but he can score a clutch goal when it matters.

Toronto’s second defensive pair doesn’t get the love it deserves. For a team known for scoring goals, Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner are a really good second wave on defense.

Ron Hainsey may not be a starter, but he’s had a career year for the Leafs ever since coming over from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Frederik Andersen may not be an elite goalie, but he can get hot when it matter…… more on him in a second though.

Goalies: 

Tuukka Rask is one of the most polarizing players in both the NHL and among Bruins fans. You either love him or hate him. He’s either elite or a complete disaster.

Rask had a solid season with a .917 save percentage and a 34-14 record. He had a rough patch in the middle of the year but then got incredibly hot as the Bruins made their playoff push.

Rask has played much better with the emergence of Anton Khudobin as a competant back up and is much more rested than at this time last year.

During the 2017-2018 regular season Frederik Andersen recorded a .918 save percentage which is impressive given the at times questionable defense in front of him.

Frederik Andersen isn’t an elite goal tender, but he has picked up some big postseason wins in the past.

He lead the Anaheim Ducks to several postseason wins early in his career so he is no stranger to the playoffs.

Injuries: 

Rick Nash is set to return after missing significant time but Riley Nash appears to still be a week or so away from a return.

Rookie forward Anders Bjork remains sidelined with some sort of shoulder injury.

The Maple Leafs are a surprisingly healthy time as they head into the postseason. They currently have no players listed on the injury report.

The Bruins will win the series if: 

The young guys step up and they can weather the loss of Brandon Carlo.

The Bruins are very front loaded on offense, but they still have plenty of young guys capable of getting hot.

The likes of Ryan Donato and Jake Debrusk absolutely must make an impact or else depth scoring may become an issue as the series progresses.

The Bruins also need to find a new lineup at the blue line. The Bruins defense has been questionable at least ever since Brandon Carlo went down so they need to step it up or else Auston Mathews will gash them.

Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy will be fine, but Adam McQuaid, Nick Holden, and Torey Krug need to step up theirgame against a very dangerous offensive attack.

The Maple Leafs will win the series if: 

They can get under the Bruins skin and stay disciplined defensively.

The Maple Leafs and Bruins are bitter rivals so expect there to be plenty of penalties over the course of the series. If Toronto can win the penalty battle, they win the series.

Boston has plenty of high end players, but they also have plenty of hot heads, including Brad Marchand.

The Bruins can”t afford to find themselves on the penalty kill because the Maple Leafs power play is the second best in the NHL, behind only the two time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Leafs need to make sure they stay disciplined at the blue line as well. Some sketchy depth defense has cost the Leafs a couple of games throughout the season so they need to make sure they don’t let the likes of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak get behind them.

Travis Dermott and Roman Polak need to step up.

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