For the 16th time in history - and third time since 2013 - it will be Boston and Toronto in the postseason.
"They're an elite team, and we're going to have to have all facets of our game [working] to the best, the top of our capabilities," said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. "It's going to start with, right from the drop of the puck, playing the right way, and I think our team knows what our identity is.
"We're going to have to play to our strengths, and we're going to have to minimize the effect that they can, but they're a dangerous club. We have to be very respectful of our opponent, and we should be."
Video: Sweeney looks back on season, ahead to playoffs
All Lined Up
Based on this week's practices, here's how the Bruins are projected to line up on for Game 1 on Thursday night:
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Noel Acciari - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
Should these be the lines that coach Bruce Cassidy rolls out on Thursday night, it would mean the postseason debuts of rookies Karson Kuhlman and Connor Clifton, both of whom emerged as significant contributors over the season's final weeks. David Backes and Steven Kampfer would be healthy scratches.
"We trust all the guys in the lineup - and the guys that are out, to be honest with you, have played well for us," said Cassidy. "Someone shows up sick tomorrow, the guys that are going on, we'd be fine with…we're trying to put the best lineup out there to give us the best chance to win and see how that plays out tomorrow."
Sean Kuraly (hand), Kevan Miller (lower-body), and John Moore (upper-body) are not expected to be available early in the series. Both Kuraly (no stick) and Moore continue to skate on their own and could return at some point in the first round, according to Cassidy.
Video: Clifton readies for possible playoff debut
The Maple Leafs finished third in the Atlantic Division with 100 points, seven behind the Bruins. Toronto boasts a potent offensive attack, having ranked fourth in the league in goals per game (3.49) and eighth on the power play (25.8%). On the defensive side, Toronto allowed 3.04 goals per game, ranking 20th in the NHL. They were tied with the Bruins for 16th on the penalty kill at 79.9%.
The biggest difference for Toronto this season is the addition of John Tavares, who was signed to a massive seven-year, $77 million contract over the summer. Tavares was as advertised in his debut season with the Leafs, collecting 47 goals (third in the NHL) and 88 points (16th).
"He was a hot commodity this summer, for good reason," said Jake DeBrusk, who had five goals in last year's seven-game series against Toronto. "He's a very good player and he's been in the league for a good amount of time now. He brings another element to their team that helps them this year. We're going to have to be aware when he's on the ice.
"He's one of their most dangerous weapons, if not their most dangerous. We understand that…we've got to have an answer for that."
Video: Bruce Cassidy talks to media about 1st round
Toronto is also paced by its talented young core, steered by Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who ranked 11th in the NHL in scoring this season with 94 points (26 goals, 68 assissts). Despite missing 14 games because of injury, Matthews still managed 37 goals and 73 points during his third NHL season.
Fellow youngsters Zach Hyman (21), Kasperi Kapanen (20), and Andreas Johnsson (20) all reached the 20-goal mark for the first time.
On the back end, 25-year-old Morgan Rielly anchors Toronto's top pairing with 38-year-old Ron Hainsey. Rielly led all defenseman in the NHL with 20 goals this season, while ranking third in points with 72. His breakout campaign has elevated him to the top of the Norris Trophy race.
Goalie Frederik Andersen was 36-16-7 with a 2.77 goals against average and .917 save percentage. Garret Sparks and Michael Hutchinson are both options to back up Andersen.
Projected Toronto lineup:
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Trevor Moore - Frederik Gauthier - Connor Brown
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Travis Dermott
Jake Muzzin - Nikita Zaitsev
"We feel that if they have time and space through the neutral zone to run those long stretch passes and attack the blue line, if we can control that part of the game and eliminate their D being involved in the rush by killing rushes at the blue line, then we're going to have problems," said Cassidy. "So, that's one area of concern, d-zone coverage. They can stretch you out, so if we're not making good reads leaving the front of our net to the slot, they're going to get some good looks as well.
"We're not going to change everything we do offensively…or defensively, but those were the areas we got exposed in the past against Toronto, especially with their speed, so if we allow them to play to their strength, I think the series tilts in their favor."
Video: Chara discusses matchup with Maple Leafs
The Bruins won three of four regular-season meetings against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018-19. David Pastrnak led Boston with nine points (six goals, three assists) against the Leafs - including his third career hat trick in the Nov. 10 matchup - with Brad Marchand chipping in seven points (all assists) and Torey Krug six (goal, five assists). Marner paced Toronto, posting five points (goal, four assists) in four games against the Bruins.
Nov. 10 at BOS - Bruins 5, Maple Leafs 1
Nov. 26 at TOR - Bruins 2, Maple Leafs 4
Dec. 8 at BOS - Bruins 6, Maple Leafs 3
Jan. 12 at TOR - Bruins 3, Maple Leafs 2
"We've played Toronto, gotten to know them, division rival, so that part of it I think is good for hockey, an Original Six matchup," said Cassidy.
Video: Marchand talks to media as playoffs approach
Last Postseason Meeting
It was another memorable postseason series for the Bruins and Maple Leafs last spring, ending with a scintillating seventh game at TD Garden that saw Boston overcome an early third-period deficit en route to a 5-4 victory.
Trailing, 4-3, entering the final frame, Krug tied the game with a one-timer from the point 1:10 into the period. Just over four minutes later, DeBrusk potted his second of the night off a stellar individual rush to give Boston the lead for good. Pastrnak added some insurance, before Marchand sealed the deal with an empty-netter.
"I don't think it favors [either team]," Sweeney said when asked about facing Toronto for the second straight postseason. "I think there's been certainly changes to each team and additions and subtractions, the familiarity of the styles of play, but it's going to come down to the performance. It's going to come down to the individual collective performances of the 20 guys that are lining up.
"There's no easy matchups. It just is what it is. We ended up with the same opponent in the first round, and it's going to take your best in order to get past them."
David Krejci, who Sweeney called the Bruins "underlying MVP" this season, leads Boston with 21 points (7 goals, 14 assists) in 14 career postseason games against Toronto. Zdeno Chara is second with 14 points in 26 games.
Marner has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in seven career postseason games - all last year - against the Bruins to lead the Maple Leafs.
Video: DeBrusk discusses 2nd playoff run
All-Time Playoff Record
The Bruins are 7-8 in 15 previous series against the Maple Leafs, with Boston holding a 38-37-1 record over 76 games. Nine of the meetings came before 1950 and all but two before 1974. The teams have met once in the Stanley Cup Final, Boston's 4-1 series victory in 1939 for their second Stanley Cup title.
2018 First Round | Boston 4, Toronto 3
2013 First Round | Boston 4, Toronto 3
1974 Quarterfinals | Boston 4, Toronto 0
1972 Quarterfinals | Boston 4, Toronto 1
1969 Quarterfinals | Boston 4, Toronto 0
1959 Semifinals | Boston 3, Toronto 4
1951 Semifinals | Boston 1, Toronto 4
1949 Semifinals | Boston 1, Toronto 4
1948 Semifinals | Boston 1, Toronto 4
1941 Semifinals | Boston 4, Toronto 3
1939 Stanley Cup Final | Boston 4, Toronto 1
1938 Semifinals | Boston 0, Toronto 3
1936 Quarterfinals | Boston 1, Toronto 1 (Maple Leafs won series on goal differential, 11-3)
1935 Semifinals | Boston 1, Toronto 3
1933 Semifinals | Boston 2, Toronto 3
Video: Bergeron chats with media ahead of playoffs
B's-Leafs Fun Facts
- Game 2 of the 1951 semifinals series between these teams ended in a 1-1 tie so that Maple Leaf Gardens could be cleared of patrons by midnight due to a Toronto law in effect that placed an 11:45 p.m. curfew on sporting events. It is the last tie in Bruins playoff history.
- The Bruins' 10-0 win over Toronto on Apr. 2, 1969 in Game 1 of their quarterfinals series stands as their largest margin of victory in a playoff game and is tied for the most goals that they have scored in a playoff game (Boston defeated St. Louis by a 10-2 score on Apr. 20, 1972). The Bruins also set a club record with six power-play goals in that win. The game was delayed when fans smashed the glass partition separating the penalty box from the seating area while pelting Toronto's Pat Quinn, who was serving a five-minute major penalty for elbowing Bobby Orr.
- Phil Esposito set a club record for points in a game and recorded the only four-goal playoff game in team history with four goals and two assists in the 10-0 victory.
- The Bruins became the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 when trailing by three goals in the third period of that game when they defeated the Maple Leafs on May 13, 2013. Boston trailed Toronto, 4-1, at the 9:18 mark of the third period when Nathan Horton scored to start the comeback. Milan Lucic (18:38) and Patrice Bergeron (19:09) scored to tie the game with Tuukka Rask pulled for an extra attacker, before Bergeron won it at 6:05 of overtime.
- Pastrnak tied an NHL record for most points in the first two games of a postseason with 4-5-9 totals in Games 1 and 2 of last year's first-round series vs. Toronto. That included tying Esposito's record for points in a playoff game with 3-3-6 totals in Game 2 of that series. He also became the youngest player in NHL history (21 years, 324 days) to record six points in a playoff game, breaking Wayne Gretzky's previous mark of 22 years, 81 days.
Video: DeBrusk discusses 2nd playoff run
Game 1: Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - NESN, NBCSN, CBC, TVA
Game 2: Saturday, April 13 at 8 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - NBC, CBC, TVA
Game 3: Monday, April 15 at 7 p.m. (Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON) - NESN, NBCSN, CBC, TVA
Game 4: Wednesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. (Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON) - NESN, NBCSN, CBC, TVA
Game 5: Friday, April 19 at TBD (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - TBD
Game 6: Sunday, April 21 at TBD (Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON) - TBD
Game 7: Tuesday, April 23 at TBD (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - TBD
All Bruins' playoff games can be heard on the Bruins flagship radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub.