The Maple Leafs will count down to the end of 2014 in Beantown, getting set to take on the Bruins on Wednesday. Here are the Leafs’ three keys to a win.
Win the faceoffs
The Maple Leafs’ ability to win the draw has been on a decline over the month of December. Their faceoff proficiency fell below 50%, while the Bruins rank fifth in the NHL (52.6%). Considering possession and shot attempts are the elements the Leafs need to improve on, winning draws at a higher rate will get the ball rolling. In two games played between these teams, the Leafs won 6-1 in a game where they were 56% in the faceoff circle, compared to 40% in the game they lost.
Outshoot the opponent
While that may be easier said than done, the Bruins tend to struggle when they come out on the lower side of the shots tally: They have the fourth-worst record when they are outshot (.313). If the Leafs step up their shot attempts, they stand a good chance at grabbing a lead and protecting it. Achieving this goal will mean the Leafs will get back to playing the right way. That may not be easy with the Bruins posting a season-high 45 shots on net against the Red Wings on Monday.
The Chara effect
Zdeno Chara did not play in the team’s first two games against the Leafs this season, as he missed two months with a knee injury. His return to the Bruins lineup earlier this month has given the team an added spark, winning four of their last six games. The big matchup of Chara vs. Phil Kessel will be on display again. While special teams have been a struggle for Boston, the return of Chara’s booming shot on the point has given the Bruins a familiar weapon. Boston also has a power play goal in three of their last four games.