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Bruins vs. Leafs First Round Playoff Preview

Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 9.28.37 PMIt is finally here. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us. For the second straight year, the Boston Bruins will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round. It’s a damn shame that two of the top teams of the league have to play each other in the first round. But nonetheless, it’s time to go to work. Game 1 kicks off Thursday night at 7 pm in Boston.

Post Thumbnail: 1279509The Boston Bruins will win the series if…

1) The Perfection Line stays perfect. Toronto is going to try and shut down the B’s top line but if Pastrnak can produce the way we saw him last year, the Bruins will be in great shape. Nobody loves playing the Leafs more than DP88. In four regular games this season, Pasta recorded 6G, 3A for 9 points. If we go all the way back to Game 1 last year against the Leafs, he’s got 11G, 11A for 22 points in 11 games. Brad Marchand is coming off a career year in which he eclipsed the 100 point mark for the first time. He has 14-21 for 37 points in 40 regular season games against the Leafs. Patrice Bergeron, Mr. Perfect himself missed time this year but still managed to have a career year (79 points).

Will Toronto’s defense have an answer for these three? I think not. They will most likely see Rielly-Hainsey pairing from Toronto.

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2) Tuukka Rask plays at the high level we know he can play at. If he doesn’t? Jaro Halak is waiting in the wings. Rask should be ready to go, he’s played the fewest games this regular season since ’12-’13. If he does not perform to expectations, the Bruins do have Halak as their safety net. Don’t forget, Philipp Grubauer started the playoffs for the Washington Capitals last season before Braden Holtby won it back. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get there. With two close teams, goaltending will be the difference in this series.

3) The defense shuts down Toronto’s biggest stars. From Auston Matthews and John Tavares to Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman. Tavares “seriously considered” the Bruins last summer before he signed in Toronto, and now he has to go against them in his first time back in the playoffs since 2016. The B’s held Matthews to just 2 points in 7 games last year in the playoffs. Brandon Carlo will make his post-season debut for the first time in three years, he has 230 regular season games under his belt but 0 in the playoffs. He’s going to be an important player in this series with him and Krug standing strong as the 2nd pairing. He’s going to be an X-Factor in this series. The Leafs transition game is no joke. They will make you pay if you fall asleep back there. Toronto likes to stretch the zone with long breakout passes. They are going to have to be ready for them to push the pace. It’s no wonder Bruce Cassidy wants to dress “their fastest lineup”, Toronto’s offense is dominant. Hopefully that means we see Connor Clifton in the lineup over Steven Kampfer.

  • The Bruins this season were 3rd in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.59), to Toronto’s 3.04 (20th).

This year vs. last year

TORONTO:

lefasinoutBack up: Hutchinson

BOSTON:

bosoutinBack up: Halak

The Leafs are better than they were a year ago, but so are the Bruins. We saw NOEL ACCIARI has the 3rd C in Game 1 last year. Charlie Coyle is a sizable upgrade who can possess the puck like no other. Don’t sleep on Marcus Johansson either. If that third line can chip in offensively and stall the middle of the Leafs lineup, the Bruins will be in good hands. On the other side of things, Nazem Kadri, who ran Tommy Wingels and found himself suspended from games 2-5 last year, will look for redemption.

Who has the advantage?

Offense: Leafs. Toronto has the advantage here. Adding John Tavares and his 47 goals this season was huge. They’ve got a one-two punch with Matthews on the first line. Don’t sleep on Mitch Marner, either. The Leafs can generate offense like no other. Nylander hasn’t had the season he’d hope, but that third line with Marleau and Kadri is deep.

Defense: Bruins. Zdeno Chara is going to eat minutes in a shut down role, same with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Carlo might have some butterflies as this is his first playoff experience. But boy did he have a great regular season. No Kevan Miller hurts the B’s, but look for Matt Grzelcyk to have clean breakouts out of their own zone. Advantage, Boston.

Meanwhile Rielly and Hainsey will have their hands full with the Bruins top six (and Perfection Line). Jake Gardiner is returning from a back injury, he got just one game in before missing the last month of the regular season. The B’s should go right after him.

Goaltending: Bruins. With Rask feeling good and ready to go, and Halak in the background in case things get shaky. It’s time for Tuukka Rask to have his David Price moment and silence the haters. The Bruins have depth in the crease and thus have the upper hand. Andersen has been overworked in Toronto, playing an absurd amount of games this season. Both goalies (Rask, Andersen) stumbled at the end of the regular season, Rask had just one win in his last 4 games of the season.

Andersen: 36-16-7 record with a 2.77 GAA and a .917 SV% (59 games)

Rask: 27-13-5 record with a 2.48 GAA and a .912 SV% (45 games)

Rask should be fresher, he played nearly 15 less games than Freddy this year.

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Special teams: The Bruins at 25.9% boasted the 3rd best PP in the league. Toronto with 21.8% sat 8th. Both teams matched on the PK with 79.9%. Numbers game gives the advantage to Boston. Although, the Bruins let up a league leading 15 shorthanded goals this season. I cried as I typed this.

Prediction: Bruins in 6

The B’s offense will give the Leafs defense fits. The “kids” (who have a year of experience under their belt) will show up. Guys like Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk love these big moments. David Krejci looks prime for a Cup run. Brandon Carlo gets his first taste of playoff hockey, he’ll be another important player in this series. But what it’s going to come down to is the middle of the lineups for both teams, and goaltending. If Tuukka Rask plays lights out the Bruins should put Toronto away in six games.

Lines

Here are how the lines are looking for Thursday at TD Garden..

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The only two players missing Sean Kuraly (broken hand) and John Moore (UBI) skated Monday before practice. It’s encouraging that we’ll see Kuraly before the series ends. The B’s are a better team with his speed in the lineup.

Karson Kuhlman has played his way into the right side of David Krejci’s line. He plays pretty fearless, can crash the net, and will create separation for DeBrusk and Krejci. David Krejci had a tremendous season, hopefully him and DeBrusk can light up Andersen.

Kevan Miller will NOT be ready to start the series, in fact, per Rear Admiral, he won’t in the playoffs at all. Connor Clifton, who has impressed in his latest call up, SHOULD slot in on the right side, but according to practice lines it looks like Bruce Cassidy will favor Steven Kampfer to start. *Fingers crossed this changes*.

David Backes looks to be the odd man out. Bruce Cassidy said he wants to dress “the fastest lineup” available. I would prefer him over Nordstrom, but I can see a scenario where he slots in for Game 2.

Here is how Toronto lined up in their first practice on Monday:

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Extra forwards: Petan, Ennis

Extra defensemen Marincin, Rosen

It’s almost time for battle.

Schedule:

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Gear up.

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Let’s fucking go.

Season starts right now.