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Bruins will play Maple Leafs in Eastern Conference First Round

Boston has home-ice advantage against Atlantic Division rival

by @NHLdotcom

The Boston Bruins will play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Boston (49-24-9) finished second in the Atlantic Division, seven points ahead of third-place Toronto (46-28-8) to get home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series.

"Toronto's a hard place and a hard atmosphere to go in and play. Those first two games in the series are probably the most important to lead you off to an outcome," Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said. "... With our fan base, it's not easy to come into our place, either, and play against us."

The Bruins went 3-1-0 against the Maple Leafs this season, outscoring them 16-10. David Pastrnak had nine points (six goals, three assists) and Brad Marchand had seven assists in the four games for Boston. Jaroslav Halak started three games and was 2-1-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Tuukka Rask made 30 saves in a 3-2 win at Toronto on Jan. 12.

"It's two Original Six teams going at it," Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk said. "There's nothing better than that. There's so much history and passion in the series. Two very good teams as well. I think it's two heavyweights going at it in the first round, a little earlier than we'd both like. Having said that, both teams are looking forward to it."

Video: Previewing the Maple Leafs vs. Bruins playoff matchup

Mitchell Marner led the Maple Leafs with five points (one goal, four assists) against the Bruins, and Andreas Johnsson (two goals, one assist) and Auston Matthews (one goal, two assists) had three each.

"We've played that team a lot in the last two years," Marner said of the Bruins, who defeated the Maple Leafs in the first round last season in seven games. "We know what we've got to do to win. When we get our chances we've got to make sure we score. I think that's the biggest part of this year and last year. I think last year we had a lot of chances, we just didn't bury them. When we get our chances this year we've got to make sure we put them in."

Frederik Andersen started two games and went 1-1-0 with a 4.52 GAA and .882 save percentage. Garret Sparks started one and relieved Andersen in a 6-3 loss at Boston on Dec. 8. Michael Hutchinson made 26 saves Jan. 12.

"Hopefully we can get revenge from last year," Andersen said. "Obviously most of the team is there still so it should be an exciting series.

"I was told that it was like 99 percent sure a while ago, so we kind of obviously were looking ahead for that a little bit and preparing for that. It's going to be a tough series so hopefully we can keep playing like we did tonight and hopefully make it a great series for us."

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot

This will be the 16th time the teams have faced each other in the playoffs since 1932-33. The Bruins scored four third-period goals in Game 7 of the 2018 first round to eliminate the Maple Leafs with a 7-4 win after losing Games 5 and 6. Five years earlier, Boston became the first NHL team to win Game 7 of a postseason series after trailing by three goals in the third period when it rallied to defeat Toronto 5-4 in overtime in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

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

The Bruins are in the playoffs for a third consecutive season. They won the Stanley Cup with a seven-game victory against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and lost the 2013 Cup Final in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Maple Leafs are making their third straight postseason appearance but haven't won the Cup since 1967. senior writer Dan Rosen and correspondent Craig Merz contributed to this report

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