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I'm Ready To Get Hurt Again: Bruins Leafs Round 1 Playoff Preview

Steph Chambers. Getty Images.

Tonight, the Boston Bruins embark on the postseason and there is no doubt in my mind, I am ready to get hurt again. After suffering a devastating Game 7 loss to the Florida Panthers last year in a record breaking season, the new look B's will look to write their own history. In what was supposed to be a "rebuild" year, the Bruins found themselves as one of the best teams in the league the entire year. On paper it makes no sense, but what they've been able to do this year with so many changes is actually really impressive. There is nothing better than the Stanley Cup Playoffs and I am once gain, ready to live and die with every single play.

For the 4th time in the last 11 years, we've got a series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Let's get into it…



Winslow Townson. Getty Images.

Heinen - Zacha - Pastrnak

Marchand - Coyle - DeBrusk

Lauko - Geekie - Frederic

Beecher - Boqvist - Maroon

Scratches: van Riemsdyk, Brazeau (injured, week to week but is skating), Poitras (injured, out)

To state the obvious, the Bruins suffered two big losses last summer with the retirements of David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, oh and they dealt Nick Foligno and Taylor Hall to Chicago, Tyler Bertuzzi left in free agency to join the enemy while the Bruins were in cap hell. They simply couldn't retain their record breaking roster. It wasn't a fun summer for Boston but come October, all eyes were on 88 to keep up with his offensive production in the first year of his big ticket. Pastrnak delivered with another high caliber regular season, racking up 47 goals and 63 assists (career high) for a team high 110 points. To put it in perspective, he has 43 more points than the next Bruin, Brad Marchand. He gets paid to score goals and that's what the Bruins will need from him this postseason. Certainly helps that Pasta has 7G, 12A for 19 points in 14 career playoff games against the Leafs (and 19G, 17A in 28 regular season games). Dude just loves beating Toronto. If the Bruins are to advance, Pasta will be a big reason why. He is their offense and the Bruins will go as far as he (and Marchand) go. 

Speaking of Marchand, Boston's emotional and fearless leader and first time Captain will look to take it to Toronto and their high powered offense. I've watched this Behind The B clip no less than 8,000 times. Marchand's composure in this series will be important. Like Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, who plays emotionally as well, needs to build off his strong end of the regular season. DeBrusk, who is a UFA at year's end seemed to pick things up once he knew he was indeed staying in Boston after a tough trade deadline. Marchand, DeBrusk and Coyle will likely see a lot of Auston Matthews. I have no doubt in my mind that Marchand has full control of that locker room and will have the guys ready to go for Game 1. Shutting down Auston Matthews will be no easy task, but all three players play a strong 200 foot game and can each chip in offensively as well.


Two players who have completely elevated their games this year are Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle, like I said earlier with Krejci and Bergeron gone, the Bruins needed these guys to almost play ABOVE their ceiling and boy have they delivered and then some. Two really great regular seasons from them. Coyle hit career highs in goals with 25 and points with 60. Zacha (21G, 38A) helped Pastrnak continue his offensive prowess this season, his 21 goals matched his career high from last year, while his 38 assists were a new career high this year. Speaking of last year.. Krejci and Bergeron last year = 114 points… Coyle and Zacha this year = 119 points.. The Bruins would not be in this position without those two. Really good production that will need to continue this playoff run.

Don Sweeney went bargain hunting last July and found some value gold with Danton Heinen. He entered the year on a PTO and finished the season with 17 goals and 19 assists. You can add James van Riemsdyk (11G, 27A) to that list as well, although he's fallen out of favor as of late. Not sure if that's injury related or play related. But JVR looks to be a scratch in Game 1. If he is to return to the lineup, he'll likely replace Jakub Lauko on the 3rd line. The Bruins will miss JVR's net front presence on the PP, which has struggled of late. But credit to Sweeney for finding guys who have contributed greatly at little cost.

Lauko - Geekie - Frederic make up a fascinating third line. Lauko has found himself in and out of the lineup all year long, but for the postseason I really love this line and the energy they bring. Geekie and Frederic have had great years but they find themselves likely lining up against Nylander and his line which will be a tough match up. Frederic is a guy who can get under Toronto's skin but his offense this year (18G, 22A) has been a treat to watch. Get you a man who can do both! Geekie (17G, 22A) was the only player out of the free agent crop to get a second year, he's been brilliant here and is someone who Jim Montgomery can plug anywhere in the lineup. This will be his first postseason experience, however. They have cooled off as of late but secondary scoring will absolutely be needed from these guys, especially in a series like this where it feels like Toronto can just score at will at times (3.63 goals per game). 


The Big Rig is ready for playoff hockey. I do worry that Pat Maroon, who played just two games to close out the regular season after returning from back surgery, will need some more time to adjust to Boston's system and get up to speed. The B's will need him to agitate and get under the Leafs' skin just like I'm sure Reaves will do to Boston. Johnny Beecher slots in on the left side, he'll be important on the draw. They will be centered by Jesper Boqvist who begun the season in Providence but made the most of his recalls. Boqvist's speed bodes well against Toronto and hopefully Beecher/JVR and Maroon can keep up. If Maroon needs to take a game off, JVR would slide in and Lauko would move down to the 4th line. Let's hope Maroon's playoff prowess continues and propels Boston past this round and on a nice little run here. I still can't believe he's on this team.


China Wong. Getty Images.

Lindholm - McAvoy

Grzelcyk - Carlo

Shattenkirk - Peeke

Scratches: Wotherspoon, Lohrei, Forbort (injured, but is on a conditioning stint in Providence)

Giphy Images.

Charlie McAvoy will have his hands full with Auston Matthews this series but I feel like McAvoy is up for the task, roaring and ready to go. I can't believe it's been 7 years since his first playoffs against Ottawa. McAvoy is a big leader on this team, while his offensive numbers aren't quite up there, he is Boston's key cog who can do it all. Montgomery is choosing Hampus Lindholm to skate on his left side instead of Matt Grzelcyk who drops down with Carlo. In shocking fashion, Hampus doesn't have a single postseason point in 2 years with Boston. Looking for that to change and Lindholm to be a big reason why Boston has success these playoffs. If Toronto's offense is too much too handle for everyone else, they'll split these two guys up. 


Brandon Carlo had a health scare with 2 games left in the regular season but Jim Montgomery say he's good to go for Game 1. Carlo has been rock solid all year long. I worry about Matt Grzelcyk's health at times, but I think this pairing stays strong as Grzelcyk plays well against fast teams. 

Andrew Peeke has been a welcome physical addition in Boston but is the only member of the Bruins defense that has 0 postseason experience. Shattenkirk, who has a Stanley Cup to his name, will help keep him in check. This pairing is subject to change as the Bruins will have rookie Mason Lohrei waiting in the wings if they need him as well as rugged defender Parker Wotherspoon. We'll get to the goalies in a second but I can see a rotation with the last pairing defenders as well. Shattenkirk has been in and out of the lineup, however he'll be QBing the Bruins' top power play unit so he'll get the first crack in Game 1. 

Boston's team first defense is another strength they will lean on against Toronto, who has more of a depleted D corps.


China Wong. Getty Images.

Ullmark, Swayman

The biggest luxury of the Boston Bruins in 2023-2024 has been the play of their goalies. After fucking up last year, it's of my belief that Montgomery will stick with a goalie rotation and then see who gets hot and takes the net over. If it's not broken don't fix it right? I think Ullmark will be confirmed as your Game 1 starter, Swayman for Game 2 and then they'll go from there. You could also make the argument that it's Swayman's turn in net, and he has owned Toronto this year (3-0-0). I think this is something that can be used to their benefit and it's the biggest strength in the series. The postseason will be a different breed but the Bruins will lean on their goalies to get them through the first round. I think Ullmark is your guy, but he will certainly have a shorter leash than years past.



Bertuzzi - Matthews - Domi 

Knies - Tavares - Marner 

Robertson - Holmberg - Nylander/Jarnkrok

Dewar - Kampf - Reaves

Scratches: McMann

Auston Matthews' 69 goals (nice) was a sight to behold this year.  He has an insane release and can score from quite literally anywhere. A threat every time he steps on the ice. The Leafs biggest strength in this series is their high caliber players like Nylander, Marner and Tavares. But the Leafs will go as far as Matthews goes. I imagine the Coyle line and McAvoy will get most of his matchups. While Matthews boasts impressive offensive numbers, he's no chump defensively either and he'll likely get some Selke votes this year. 

Old friend Tyler Bertuzzi is on the other side of things this postseason (I thought was the perfect Bruin and was devastated when we couldn't retain him…). Bertuzzi had a slow start as his first year as a Leaf, but finished strong with 21 points (14G, 7A) in his last 25 games… ending the year with 21G, 22A for 43 points in 80 games. Bertuzzi turns it on as we know in the playoffs which is a scary thought. Him and Max Domi will be banging bodies and getting in the mix, allowing Matthews to do his thing. Domi is presumed healthy and will be ready for Game 1.


The offense flows right into the 2nd line with Knies, Tavares (65 points) and Marner (85 points), but things fall apart a bit for Toronto in their bottom six.

William Nylander didn't practice on Friday afternoon, and his availability for Game 1 is up in there air. I'd be surprised if he didn't play, though. He hit career highs this year with 40 goals, 58 assists for 98 points, and will be able to feast as Toronto has spread out their offense. It'd be a big loss for the Leafs if he can't go tonight. 

Ryan Reaves will be barking at anyone and everyone. It'll be a great matchup to see him and Maroon going at it. Theres actually a good bit of physicality between both squads.


Rielly - Lyubushkin

Benoit - McCabe

Edmundson - Liljegren

Scratches: Brodie, Timmins, Giordano, Webber

Morgan Rielly is Toronto's do-it-all stud on defense, but the drop off after him is significant. The Bruins know how hard McCabe plays, same with Lyubushkin, who is on his second tenure with the Leafs. Sam Benoit has pushed TJ Brodie out of the lineup, which is a bit of a surprise. The Leafs acquired Joel Edmundson (who the Bruins were in on), at the trade deadline to bolster some physicality. While Boston has a weaker offense, Toronto has the weaker defense. They do have newly signed Cade Webber (Boston University) waiting in the wings should they need him. The Leafs have been dealing with some injuries on the back end to end the year, so there may be a rotation of sorts for them as well.


Samsonov, Woll, Murray

Ilya Samsonov (.890 SV%, 3.13 GAA) will get the start in net for Toronto in Game 1. He's had an up and down season to say the least, 23-7-8 record, and needed a stint in the AHL to get right. The Leafs have Joseph Woll (12-11-1), who they turned to last year in the playoffs, and even Matt Murray, who hasn't played since April of 2023. If Samsonov falters, I wouldn't be surprised if the Leafs turn to Woll or even Murray. This is by far Toronto's biggest weakness and hopefully the likes of Pastrnak and company can exploit this.


Both power play units for both teams have struggled in the latter portion of the season. The Maple Leafs are clicking at 24% while Boston is clicking at 22.2%. The Bruins finished the year with just 2 goals in their last 30 man advantages, fucking grossssss. Boston has a new look on the man up, with Pastrnak, Heinen, Zacha, Maroon and Shattenkirk on PP1, McAvoy, Marchand, Geekie, Coyle, DeBrusk on PP2. I don't hate it, and I'm sure it'll be subject to change as the series goes on. Shattenkirk has helped revive that first group a bit. I'd like to see them go back to JVR at net front when/if he's healthy and back in. 


Where Boston succeeds in comparison is the penalty kill. 82.5% compared to Toronto's 76.9%. The Bruins however, should not give Toronto's offense any sort of leg up. I imagine it'll be a tightly called series with two teams who absolutely hate each other and special teams can end up being the difference. 


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Bruins in 7.

Boston had the edge in the regular season, sweeping all four games (albeit 2 of those 4 wins came in OT and SO). But you throw that out the window the second the puck drops for the postseason. The bottom line is the goaltending and defense Boston has matched with their team first mentality will trump Toronto's high powered offense. Toronto may be able to steal some games with their goal scoring, but Boston's experience and emotion playing at home will go long way and the Leafs will not get to exorcise their demons this spring. Not in Jack Edwards last season as PxP announcer.


Game 1 in Boston at 8pm on 4/20/24

Game 2 in Boston at 7pm on 4/22/24

Game 3 in Toronto at 7pm on 4/24/24

Game 4 in Toronto at 8pm on 4/27/24

Game 5 TBD (4/30/24)

Game 6 TBD (5/2/24)

Game 7 TBD (5/4/24)


16 goalie hugs until Lord Stanley. Let's fucking go.

It's a great night to win a hockey game.

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