Here we go again. For the third time since 2013 and the second time in two seasons the Bruins and Maple Leafs meet in the first round of the playoffs. In both of those meetings, the Bruins needed a game 7, third period comeback to avoid elimination.
The 2019 edition is going to be different. I can not see the Leafs putting up a fight.
This year’s Bruins (107 pts, 2nd in east) squad is close to the same as last years. The Maple Leafs (100 pts, t5th in east) added coveted free agent John Taveras, so on paper, my claim does not make much sense.
But the year’s Bruins squad has several things going for it. Second line center David Krejci has turned back the clock notching a career-high 73 points. For both Bruins cup runs in 2011 and 2013, Krejci led the playoffs in points. They go deep when their second line center provides scoring depth.
After the Bruins went after Taveras, Krejci made it clear it had an impact on him. So I expect his play to continue in the postseason. Plus Krejci has another year under his belt with 22-year-old Jake DeBrusk. DeBrusk tallied 27 goals this season has become a reliable winger for Krejci. The duos success should continue.
This season, the Bruins also have a somewhat serviceable backup goalie in Jaroslav Halak. So Rask should stay up to par because I don’t doubt head coach Bruce Cassidy’s guts to make a switch. With that looming over Rask’s head, he should be on his game.
The Bruins have owned the Maple Leafs all season outscoring them 16-10 with 5-1 and 6-3 wins mixed in. The Maple Leafs have a talented group of forwards including Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner who all notched above 73 points. Their problem lies in defensive talent. The Bruins were fourth in goals against this season, the Maple Leafs were eighteenth.
The Bruins trio of David Pastrnak-Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand should feast on the weak d-core. There aren’t any combos of d-pairings the Leafs can offer that will be able to shut them down. The trio tallied 14 points in ONE GAME versus them last year in the playoffs.
With the best line in hockey being matched up vs a mediocre defense, improved depth scoring, and more ideal goaltender situation the black and gold should cruise by Toronto. Up next: A matchup with one of the best regular season hockey teams in history. The Bruins knocking down the Lightning would be the greatest Bruins moment since the cup lift in 2011.
Tampa Bay tied the NHL season win record at 62. Taking down this Goliath and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals would give the 2011 and 2013 core players a second wind that would go a long way in cementing themselves in Bruins’ history. Maybe I am just a diehard Bruins fan looking bye the Leafs but my eyes are set on the Lightning. A series that could help bring back those vivid memories from 2011 and 2013.
Prediction: Bruins in 5