Maple Leafs back in playoffs, visit Bruins in Game 1
Mike G. Morreale
MAPLE LEAFS (26-17-5) at BRUINS (28-14-6)
TV: CNBC, CBC, RDS
Last 10: Toronto 5-4-1; Boston 3-5-2
Season series: The Boston Bruins won three of the four regular-season meetings while outscoring the Toronto Maple Leafs, 10-7 in those games. The season finale was March 25 at TD Garden -- a 3-2 victory by the Bruins in a shootout.
Big story: The Northeast Division foes will be meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 14th time in League history. Toronto holds an 8-5 lead but Boston has won the past three series; the most recent coming in four-game sweep in the 1974 Quarterfinals. The Bruins went on to lose a six-game series to the Philadelphia Flyers in the '74 Stanley Cup Final.
Maple Leafs: Toronto is back in the postseason for the first time since 2004, when it dropped a six-game series to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Nazem Kadri had two goals and one assist and Mikhail Grabovski had a goal and two assists to pace the Leafs in four games against the Bruins in 2012-13. Phil Kessel was the offensive catalyst for the Leafs all season, striking for 20 goals and 52 points. James Reimer will be the starter in goal. The 25-year-old, who will be experiencing his first playoff action, finished 19-8-5 with a career-low 2.46 goals-against average and career-high .924 save percentage.
Coach Randy Carlyle discounted the Bruins' late-season struggles.
"I think you throw it all out because it's an old cliche, a new season, but it is," he said Tuesday. "We've said right from Day 1 the next one is the most important one and that has held true.
"I'd expect we're going to get a Boston Bruins team that's different than the last two weeks of their season and I'd expect we're going to get a higher brand of hockey from our club also."
Bruins: The Bruins didn't close out the regular season as well as they would have liked, finishing 3-5-2 over their last 10 games and dropping to the fourth seed in the East. Still, the club possesses a well-balanced group that could rekindle some of the early-season magic. In the four regular-season matches against the Maple Leafs this season, the Bruins were led by Patrice Bergeron (two goals, four points) and Brad Marchand (four assists). Jaromir Jagr, who was acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, had two goals and nine points in 11 games since joining the team. Despite losing his last two starts, Tuukka Rask finished the season 19-10-5 with a 2.00 GAA and .929 save percentage.
"All I know is that we're starting a new season and we've earned a spot in the playoffs, which we should be proud of," coach Claude Julien said. "It's an opportunity for us to challenge for the Cup. So we have to get ourselves ready and build some good momentum going forward."
Who's hot: Kessel closed out the regular season with 10 goals and 18 points in the last 11 games for the Leafs. However, the former Bruin has just three goals in 22 games against his old team.
Injury report: Bruins forward Nathan Horton (hand) has missed five straight games. Jagr missed the last two games with flu symptoms. … Center Tyler Bozak (shoulder) has missed the last two regular-season games for the Maple Leafs and is questionable for Game 1, though he said he intends to play.