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First Round

Maple Leafs face Bruins in Game 6 on verge of first series win since 2004

Go for clincher at home not focusing on playoff drought

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to win their first Stanley Cup Playoff series in 15 years when they play the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN). 

"I just saw that the other day (that it has been 15 years), I haven't really thought about that much," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "It means a lot to be part of a great franchise. I think we're going in the right direction, I think we've been doing that for three years. We have a chance to build a real good program here. This is all part of that process. 

"Tomorrow is a game we'd like to win. We know the formula for us to win tomorrow, we know that. Now we've got to do it. It's great to know the answers, but now you've got to do it every day, and that's the hardest part, and sometimes at home you get a little carried away. Let's just play."


[RELATED: Matthews has Maple Leafs ready to advance | Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]


The Maple Leafs last won a playoff series in 2004, when they defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. It was the last time they had an opportunity to clinch a series on home ice. Since then, the Maple Leafs have had two chances to clinch a series: Game 7 against the Bruins in 2013 and in 2018, losing each game on the road.

Neither team has won consecutive games in the best-of-7 series that Toronto leads 3-2. The Maple Leafs won Game 5 2-1 on Friday. The winner of the series will play the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round. 

"There hasn't been a whole lot of momentum carried in this series, there's actually been none," Babcock said. "It's important that we understand how we have to play and get prepared to do that. It's important to enjoy the crowd and the atmosphere and all that, but we have to get down to business and take care of the puck."

Video: Andersen's 28 saves help Toronto take 3-2 series lead

Jake Muzzin, who was 6-4 in possible series-clinching games with the Los Angeles Kings, said the key for the Maple Leafs will be to be aggressive against what he expects to be a desperate Bruins team.

"You don't sit back, that's for sure. You go after it, and it's the toughest game to win because they're desperate all right," Muzzin said. "We have to be just as desperate and hungry, we can't sit back and let them take the game to us. We have to go out and play our game and use the home ice tomorrow as our advantage."

Auston Matthews, who has five points (four goals, one assist) and has scored in each of the past three games, including the first goal in Game 5, said he wants the Maple Leafs to carry the same mindset into Game 6 as they have on the road during this series.

"The first 10 minutes, the way we've played in their rink have been really important for us," Matthews said. "We know the atmosphere is going to be great in Game 6, physical and just getting over that, weathering the storm on the road has been really important. For us on home ice now, we want to start on time and attack early. It's the same mindset as every other game. Everybody has to be on the same page and we have to have that killer instinct from the start. We're in a good position here on home ice."

John Tavares said nobody is looking beyond the first round.

"You have to keep staying with the focus that we've had," Tavares said. "Nothing's been accomplished yet, we have to go out and play well and execute at a high level and leave it all out there. We've been doing a lot of good things and lots of parts of our game have started to come along, but we know we need to get to another level knowing they're going to bring their best."

Video: Matthews heating up in past three games vs. Bruins

Even though Muzzin grew up in Woodstock, Ontario, about an hour and a half west of Toronto, the defenseman said he has gained a greater appreciation about what hockey means in the city since coming over from the Kings in a trade Jan. 28. He said he understands how important it would be to Toronto if the Maple Leafs were to advance.

"I'm learning how much hockey means here in Toronto, not that it didn't with my previous team, but it's another level here for sure with the fans in the city," Muzzin said. "Seeing the Square is outside (where fans gather to watch the games), that's just nuts."

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