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Round 1

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs playoff preview

Toronto hoping to finally solve Boston, advance for first time since 2004

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Bruins: 49-24-9, 107 points, second in Atlantic

Maple Leafs: 46-28-8, 100 points, third in Atlantic

Season series: BOS 3-1-0; TOR 1-3-0


[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]


The skinny

Another year, another matchup between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round. 

The Maple Leafs have been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in four of the past seven seasons. They play the Bruins for the second straight year and third time since 2013, losing in seven games in '13 and 2018. 

They're hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Video: Previewing the Leafs vs. Bruins First Round matchup

"I think every team is different," forward Zach Hyman said. "Our team's not the same as it was last year and their team isn't the same as it was last year. But rivalries are built on these playoff series and fan bases don't forget playoff series. So I think it's a better storyline for fans than it is for us. For us, we obviously want to beat Boston. It's going to be a good series. We're excited."

But the Bruins were tied with the Calgary Flames for the second-most points (107) in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (128) and will be a difficult opponent for the Maple Leafs. Toronto went 4-7-3 in its final 14 games, ceding ground to a Bruins team that is 22-7-4 since Jan. 29, including a 19-game point streak (15-0-4) from Jan. 29 to March 9. Boston's postseason aspirations go beyond a five-game loss to the Lightning in the second round last season.

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Bruins clinch a playoff spot

"I think that's what we expected," defenseman Torey Krug said. "We knew that there were going to be some growing pains throughout the year, and especially with how many successful first-year guys we had, we thought that we could grow and develop our game, and I think those guys are starting to mature a little bit more and we've grown into a winning hockey club."

But the Maple Leafs, who signed center John Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million contract July 1, are hoping they can get over their postseason struggles against the Bruins and advance to the second round for the first time since 2004.

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot


Game breakers

Bruins: Right wing David Pastrnak missed 16 games because of an injured thumb that required surgery but returned March 19 and had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his next five games, including his third hat trick of the season in a five-point game March 27. Pastrnak finished with NHL career highs in points (81) and goals (38) in 66 games. 

Maple Leafs: It was clear when they signed Tavares he would make an impact. It would have been hard to anticipate the center setting an NHL career high with 47 goals, surpassing the 40-goal mark for the first time and getting an NHL best 88 points.



Bruins: Tuukka Rask (27-12-5) is a notoriously slow starter and this season was no exception. Rask was briefly overtaken by Jaroslav Halak as the starting goalie but bounced back with a 19-game point streak (16-0-3, 1.94 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) from Dec. 29 to March 9. Rask finished with a 2.42 GAA and .912 save percentage. Halak went 22-11-4 with a 2.34 GAA and .922 save percentage.

Maple Leafs: Their goaltending situation is uncertain heading into the playoffs. Frederik Andersen (36-16-7) struggled down the stretch but finished with a 2.77 GAA and .917 save percentage. Michael Hutchinson, who played five games for the Maple Leafs this season, replaces Garret Sparks as Andersen's backup until further notice.


Numbers to know

Bruins: Boston allowed 2.59 goals per game, third behind the New York Islanders (2.33) and Dallas Stars (2.44), and will test Toronto's offense, which is fourth in goals per game (3.49), behind the Lightning (3.89), Flames (3.52) and San Jose Sharks (3.52). 

Maple Leafs: Andersen had a 2.56 GAA and .924 save percentage after 50 games. He allowed 3.85 goals per game with an .878 save percentage in his next nine.


Injury report 

Bruins: Fourth-line forward Sean Kuraly needed surgery to repair a broken right hand sustained against the New Jersey Devils on March 21. The expected recovery time is approximately four weeks, which would keep Kuraly out for at least a part of the first round. Defenseman John Moore is week to week with an upper-body injury sustained against the Lightning on March 25 

Maple Leafs: None.


They said it

"I think it's great. We're excited to have that opportunity, we're excited to be in the playoffs. Obviously, in our division, on our side, there's real good teams. That's what it's supposed to be like. You're supposed to play a real good team. I've got two kids that live in Boston. It'll be perfect." -- Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock

"I give the coaching staff a lot of credit, a lot of bodies in and out of the lineup, a lot of top guys hurt for periods of time. … And the guys in the lineup, we've [had] guys come up that we didn't expect to see this year and come up and play well for us. So I think overall it's been a great year for us." -- Bruins president Cam Neely


Will win if …

Bruins: They replicate their top-line magic from last season. The Bruins have more depth this season, but they eliminated the Maple Leafs last season on the strength of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak combining for 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in the best-of-7 series. They do that again, they win again. 

Maple Leafs: Their goaltending holds up. Andersen had a 3.76 GAA and .896 save percentage in the playoffs last season. Though Toronto's offense can be dynamic, it will be against a rock-solid Bruins defense. If Andersen can steal a couple of games, or at least be better than last time, the Maple Leafs can move on. 


How they look

Bruins projected lineup

Brad Marchand -- Patrice Bergeron -- David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk -- David Krejci -- Marcus Johansson

Danton Heinen -- Charlie Coyle -- Chris Wagner

David Backes -- Joakim Nordstrom -- Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara -- Charlie McAvoy

Brandon Carlo -- Torey Krug

Matt Grzelcyk -- Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Karson Kuhlman, Steven Kampfer, Connor Clifton


Maple Leafs projected lineup

Zach Hyman -- John Tavares -- Mitchell Marner

Andreas Johnsson -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Patrick Marleau -- Nazem Kadri -- Kasperi Kapanen

Trevor Moore -- Frederik Gauthier -- Connor Brown

Ron Hainsey -- Morgan Rielly

Nikita Zaitsev -- Jake Muzzin

Jake Gardiner -- Travis Dermott

Frederik Andersen

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Calle Rosen, Tyler Ennis, Nic Petan


Listen: NHL Fantasy on Ice playoff previews: Eastern Conference | Western Conference

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