Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs First Round Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs finally make the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 lockout but do not catch a break as they draw the Boston Bruins, who have had the Leafs’ number in the last few seasons. The Bruins do enter this series not playing as well as they should but this could be a good tune-up series for them as the Leafs may satisfied with just making the playoffs.
Let’s break this series down:
Overall Talent – On paper this is not close as only Phil Kessel would be able to play on the top two lines on the Bruins and the Leafs do not have a defenceman as good as Zdeno Chara. However, the Bruins have not been playing well, especially with a heavy schedule caused by game cancellations in the last couple of weeks due to the Boston Marathon bombing so the Leafs may be able to overcome their lack of playoff experience and give the Bruins a series.
Edge – Boston
Goaltending – Both Tuukka Rask and James Reimer have been excellent this year. Reimer’s play the last couple of months has been the primary reason the Leafs are the fifth seed. Both goalies will get some Vezina Trophy votes and I don’t see one team has an edge over the other between the pipes.
Edge – Even
Coaching – Both coaches are system coaches and have won a Stanley Cup in the recent past. Similar to the goaltending situation I don’t believe one bench has an advantage over the other.
Edge – Even
Specialty Teams – I think this is where the Leafs have the edge as Boston’s power play has been abysmal for a number of years, even in the playoffs they won the Cup. The Leafs have a middle of the road power play but it is better than the 26th ranked Bruins. Power play goals will be at a premium since Toronto was 2nd in the league in penalty killing percentage and the Bruins were 4th. A lot of this is due to goaltending and coaching.
Edge – Toronto
The Leafs have shown in the past that regular season matchups don’t matter as they used to lose the regular season series with Ottawa in the early 2000’s but would then ride good bounces and excellent goaltending to win the playoff series each year. I don’t think the Leafs have enough playoff experience to match the Bruins, especially up front. I can see the Leafs defence having trouble with the Bruins forecheck and being worn down as the series moves on. I think the Leafs win one game at the Air Canada Centre but lose in five games.