The playoffs are here! The Boston Bruins will be facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. This series will be a fun one to watch.
The Boston Bruins get to rest up as they have three days off between their game on Sunday and game 1 of their series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This will be extremely helpful as they are pretty banged up. With the Bruins lack of success against the Maple Leafs in the regular season, this series will not be a piece of cake.
A first look at the lines
Tuesday was the Bruins first practice since the final game of the regular season. We finally got to see who will (hopefully) be playing on Thursday night.
I am glad to see that Rick Nash is back in the lineup after sitting out with a concussion. With the 2nd line being back in full force the Bruins have a dominant top 6. Besides that, all of the lines are essentially the same with Riley Nash and Noel Acciari out due to injury. Brian Gionta and Tommy Wingels will be stepping into their roles. These two guys add a lot of playoff experience and veteran leadership. Wingels played great in the short time he was with the Bruins.
There is one thing that surprises me. Ryan Donato is the odd man out. Now Donato was great when he was called up. In 12 games he had 5 goals and 4 assists. He showed that he is able to produce in the NHL. Now Nash deserves his place on the 2nd line, but I thought Donato may be moved down to the 3rd line with Gionta sitting out. It appears that the Bruins are valuing veteran experience when creating their lines. I would expect Donato to play a game or two to replace Gionta.
Now to make things easier we will say that Riley Nash won’t be coming back this round, but if Noel Acciari comes back I don’t know where you put Donato.
A look at the back end
Just looking at the lines right now I am confident in this squad. They have scoring across all 4 lines and have a very dominant top 6. The defense is strong as well. Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy will be a strong top pairing.
It will be interesting to see Matt Grzelcyk in his first playoff series. We saw McAvoy’s success last season, so Grzelcyk has some high expectations entering the playoffs.
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Finally, we know who will be between the pipes. Tuukka Rask will be in net for the Boston Bruins. Now Rask has had a few rough games as of late, but I am confident in Rask. I expect this to be the playoffs where Rask shows he can perform in the clutch situations.
Now we head up North
The Toronto Maple Leafs had a good season. They finished third in the Atlantic Divison right behind the Bruins. They are led by Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Marner had 22 goals and 47 assists, and Matthews had 34 goals in an injury-shortened season.
There are some similarities between the two teams. Both of these teams are fun to watch. The game will be going back and forth. I wouldn’t expect a lot of commercial breaks. Also, these teams are both extremely deep. They both had 10 players with 30 or more points this year, as well as 7 players with 15 goals or more. I would expect a decent amount of goals to be scored.
James Van Riemsdyk led the team in goals with 36. If you watch the games on NBC you will have to deal with the JVR lovefest. He is a great player, but Pierre McGuire takes it to a whole new level. Also, another veteran to watch out for is Nazem Kadri. He had 32 goals and 23 assists this season. The Leafs also have Patrick Marleau who is a great player. He is another veteran that will help the Leafs. Finally, William Nylander is a young player who should be watched.
The Boston Bruins have the edge
The Bruins will be able to pick at a few parts of the Maple Leafs game. The Leafs don’t have a great defense. I would expect the Bruins to try and cycle the puck, and when they get an opening, attack.
The Maple Leafs also don’t have anyone special in net. Frederik Andersen had an okay year with a record of 38-21-5, a 2.81 GAA and a save percentage of .918. In 3 games against the Bruins, he gave up an average of more than 2 goals per game.
Andersen also hasn’t been that great in the playoffs. He has a similar GAA and save percentage. In the playoffs you can’t be giving up goals left and right.
The Bruins have the edge on the back end so if Rask and the defense are able to suppress the Maple Leafs offensive attack, they will be golden.
We have a few voices from across the site, but everyone believes that the Bruins will be able to get by the Maple Leafs.
Connor Friend: Bruins in 5 games
Dylan Woods: Bruins in 6 games
Talar Kahwajian: Bruins in 6 games
Tre Wiggins: Bruins in 6 games
Tarringo Basile-Vaughan: Bruins in 5 games
Now yours truly agrees with the majority. I have the Bruins winning the series in 6 games. This series won’t be easy for the Bruins, but if they are eliminated in the first round it would be a big disappointment. Even though the B’s struggled against the Leafs in the regular season, they are the better team and should be heading to the second round.
Players to watch
Now I’m not going to talk about the obvious guys like the Bruins entire first line, as well as Chara and McAvoy. An under the radar guy you should watch is Danton Heinen. He finished the season strong and will be working alongside David Backes and Gionta. I would expect him to be getting a lot of looks.
Also you should keep your eye on Grzelcyk. I think he will do great alongside McQuaid “Quaider” played with Torey Krug for the majority of his career so I think the two will work well together. I don’t expect McAvoy level of success, but he should still do rather well.
On Thursday the journey to bring home a Stanley Cup begins. The Bruins may have had a rough end to the season, but I expect them to bring their A game this postseason.