The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will square off in one of the most anticipated first-round series of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.
These rivals last met in the postseason in 2013, when the B’s pulled off an incredible comeback to win Game 7 of their first-round series in overtime.
A lot has changed since that series. Both teams are younger, faster and more skilled. Don’t be surprised if we see this matchup in the first or second rounds quite a bit over the next few seasons.
Here’s our playoff preview of Bruins vs. Leafs.
Goals/Game: TOR 3.29 (3rd), BOS 3.26 (6th)
Goals Allowed/Game: BOS 2.57 (4th), TOR 2.80 (11th)
Power play: TOR 24.9 (2nd), BOS 23.6 (4th)
Penalty kill: BOS 83.7 (3rd), TOR 81.4 (11th)
Corsi For Percentage (5-on-5): BOS 53.72 (2nd), TOR 49.82 (17th)
NOV. 10 at TOR: Leafs win 3-2 in OT
NOV. 11 at BOS: Leafs win 4-1
FEB. 3 at BOS: Bruins win 4-1
FEB. 24 at TOR: Leafs win 4-3
Game 1: Thursday, April 12 at 7 p.m.: Leafs at Bruins on NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Game 2: Saturday, April 14 at 8 p.m.: Leafs at Bruins on NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Game 3: Monday, April 16 at 7 p.m.: Bruins at Leafs on CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Game 4: Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m.: Bruins at Maple Leafs on CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN*
Game 5*: Saturday, April 21 at TBD: Leafs at Bruins on TBD
Game 6*: Monday, April 23 at TBD: Bruins at Leafs on TBD
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 25, TBD: Leafs at Bruins on TBD
James Van Riemsdyk, Left Wing, Toronto
Van Riemsdyk isn’t the most skilled or fastest player on the Leafs, but he led the team with 36 goals this season, and he’s one of the most experienced postseason performers on the roster. He has 25 points in 52 career playoff games, including seven points in seven games against the B’s in 2013. His combination of size and skill could give the Bruins problems if they’re out of position and/or allow him to win too many puck battles in front of the net.
Patrice Bergeron, Center, Boston
Bergeron, a top Hart Trophy candidate before a late-season injury, is the Bruins’ best all-around player and a key cog at both ends of the ice with his 30 goals and elite defensive performance against opponents’ top lines. Expect Bergeron to play a lot against the likes of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and JVR, and he’ll also feature prominently on special teams as part of the first unit of the power play and penalty kill. If Bergeron and his line are able to neutralize the most skilled Leafs forwards, the Bruins should be in very good shape. It won’t be easy, but Bergeron has shut down quite a few elite players over his many Selke Trophy-caliber seasons.
Tuukka Rask, Boston (34-14-5, 2.36 GAA, .917 SV%)
Rask is one of the top seven goalies in the league and despite what some misinformed critics claim, his playoff resume is very good. His .928 save percentage is the fifth-best in playoff history, and he also owns a 30-23 record and five shutouts in his postseason career. The Finnish netminder has a .937 save percentage since the beginning of the 2013 playoffs.
Rask played well in the 2013 first-round series against Toronto, posting a .923 save percentage and making some huge saves late in Game 7 as the B’s made their historic comeback. This Leafs team is much better than the 2013 squad, though, and Rask has struggled against the new playoff-caliber Toronto teams of the last two seasons. He was 0-2-0 with a .852 save percentage and a 3.63 GAA in three appearances against the Leafs in 2016-17, and this season he went 1-2-0 with a .905 save percentage and a 2.69 GAA in three appearances. These numbers need to improve for the Bruins to have the best possible chance to eliminate the Leafs, but Rask’s postseason history suggests he’ll rise to the occasion.
Frederik Andersen, Toronto (38-21-5, 2.81 GAA, .917 SV%)
Andersen has dominated the B’s, sporting a 10-1-0 record and a .935 save percentage in his career versus Boston. He was pretty consistent all season, and that helped him set a franchise record for wins by a goalie in a single season. He wasn’t too impressive late in the season with a .884 save percentage in March, but he did rebound with two impressive wins this month.
Andersen is no stranger to the playoffs. He’s made 34 career appearances (28 with the Anaheim Duck) with a 19-13 record, a .915 save percentage and a 2.41 GAA. Those stats aren’t bad, but they aren’t incredible, either. If the Bruins, a very good defensive team, keep the Leafs offense in check for a lot of the series, will Andersen be able to steal a few games? That remains to be seen, but it’s fair to assume that his stellar regular-season success versus Boston should give him plenty of confidence entering Round 1.
The Bruins win the series in six games. Boston is as close to having a fully healthy roster as it’s been in a while, and four days off between the team’s regular-season finale and Game 1 should help. The Bruins also have home-ice advantage and posted an impressive 22-12-7 road record this season. This series will be close, likely with several games decided by one goal. However, the Bruins’ advantage in overall depth and experience gives them a slight edge to win this series.
Thumbnail photo via Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports