Important games between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs have been few and far between over the last few decades, at least aside from Game 7 of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs when the Leafs blew a three-goal third-period lead and lost in overtime to the B’s.
However, the two Original Six rivals will meet Monday night at Air Canada Centre in a game that will help determine which of these teams advances to the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Leafs welcome the Bruins to Toronto three points behind the B’s for third place in the Atlantic Division standings with a game in hand. The top three teams in each division qualify for the postseason.
This is the last head-to-head game between Boston and Toronto, and a regulation win for the Bruins could really improve their chance of ending their two-year playoff drought. Sports Club Stats gives the Bruins a 90.2 percent chance to get in the playoffs, while the Leafs are at 62.9 percent.
Not only would a victory give Boston a five-point lead with 10 games remaining in the regular season, it also would increase the Bruins’ regulation and overtime wins (ROW) edge over the Leafs to six. ROW is the first playoff tiebreaker if teams are tied at the end of the season.
The Leafs should be confident in this matchup, though. They’re 3-0-0 against the B’s this season, with a pair of 4-1 wins along with a 6-5 victory. Toronto also is 4-1-1 in its last six games, including a key 5-0 win over the resurgent Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday.
The Bruins don’t have an easy schedule to end the regular season. Nine of Boston’s last 11 games are against teams currently in a playoff spot or within three points of a playoff spot. However, eight of those 11 games will be at TD Garden, where the Bruins are 7-1-0 in their last eight home games.
Still, it’s going to be a tough road for the B’s down the stretch, and that’s why they must take care of business against the teams closest to them. The Bruins can’t give the Leafs — a mostly young, inexperienced team — any hope going into the final stage of the playoff race.
That makes Monday’s showdown a near-must-win for the Bruins.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images