The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are almost here. One of the least surprising matchups is the Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs rematch. These two teams met last season and fought a hard seven-game series. In the end, it was Boston who came out on top in that, what will happen this year?
There are lots of storylines heading into the Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs series. Some such as the Leafs defence core, their struggles of late, who has the goaltending edge, and what will ultimately determine the series. So, let’s dig into a few.
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs Defence Usage
One of the most talked about stories all year has been the Leafs defence. It will no doubt be a focal point within the Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs series. The often repeated sentence has been “the Leafs can’t win with that defence core.” However, GM Kyle Dubas went out and acquired Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings. In doing so, he also didn’t give up a single roster piece. Muzzin really gives the Leafs a good enough defensive core to win, it now comes down to usage.
With the electric offensive firepower the Leafs boast, their defence never has to be number one, it just needs to be average. One of the biggest problems in last years Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs matchup was that the right side was exposed. Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev failed to make breakout passes and the Bruins knew that. The issue? It appears those two may be playing one and two again.
It is known Mike Babcock loves to keep guys on their proper hand, however, it may just not be able to work that way this series. The Leafs will need puck movers on both sides to counter-act that Boston top line. While Hainsey still has value on the PK, it is obvious most nights he is not meant for top-line competition at 5v5. To move past Boston the Leafs will need the usage of their defence to be perfect so they can assist the forwards in all areas of the ice.
Boston Scoring Depth
One of the things Boston clearly outlined at this year’s deadline was adding scoring depth. They acquired both Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle to round out the middle six. Now, this isn’t all to game plan against the Leafs. The Bruins ran into the Tampa Bay Lightning last year and lost and you know they will need even more firepower this year if they move on.
However, they should stay focused on the first round or it will bite them. The Leafs added the biggest free agent in the cap era with John Tavares, adding to an already impressive forward group. The Bruins will have to contend with Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Nazem Kadri all on three different lines.
No doubt the Bruins feel good about their first line in Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand, they will be expecting big things from Jake Debrusk, Danton Heinen, David Krejci, and their two deadline additions to keep pace with the Leafs. The Bruins will be relying on guys like Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy to be a big part in feeding the puck up ice and trying to catch the Leafs defence off guard.
Lastly, in the Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs series preview, we have goaltending. On one end, the Bruins got it done with a great duo in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Both of these guys played very well this year and Halak clearly excelled behind a better defensive team than his former one. This really gives the Bruins the option to go to either guy if one of them starts to struggle and still feel confident.
Rask played six more games but Halak was the one who posted better numbers. With how long Rask has been in Boston one may expect him to start. However, one thing is for sure and that is that Halak will be ready if he is needed at anytime this series. The Bruins have two solid options in net.
On the other side of things, there is the Leafs Frederik Andersen. Andersen had a great season again this year but hopes to have different results than last year. He had a very good regular season but followed that up with a .896 save percentage in the playoffs. Now, some of this may be due to fatigue or injury. He played 66 games last year which in all likelihood is too much for a starter these days. As well, he suffered a few different small injuries. This year, his workload is down to 60 games, still may be higher but six games off is a lot.
However, if Andersen struggles the Leafs are in a tough spot. Garret Sparks has struggled and won’t even dress for the Leafs likely. Michael Hutchinson looks to be the backup for now and he played just nine NHL games this year with a .887 save percentage. Andersen needs to be the Andersen the Leafs saw most of this season for the Leafs to succeed.
At the end of the day, this very well may be the closest series. Almost every single model has this series as a 50/50 coin flip, with the highest for most models putting one team at 52% chance of winning. This series is completely up for grabs.
However, the Boston defence seems more structured and the usage seems better on their side. If the Leafs can’t figure out their right-side effectively there may be only so much they or Andersen can do.
Bruins in 7.