Same as it ever was. The Leafs face the Bruins in the first round and Leafs fans begin their internal debate over which team they are going to bandwagon after the first round. If history has taught us anything we should be happy because the Bruins will at least give us seven games, not like those always in a rush folks down in Washington.
Rather than take the defeatist attitude I have been trained to as a Leaf fan, I am going to focus on the biggest X Factor the Leafs have added this year, and with all due respect to Jake Muzzin, and (checks notes) Nic Petan, it appears that factor is John Tavares.
Since we’ve still got some time to kill before the series start, let’s look at how John Tavares has done against the Bruins…
So compared to how Tavares does against other teams there is a little to be desired for Tavares versus the Bruins. They are pretty much his average team when it comes to goal scoring, and his shooting percentage and ice time are right around target as well, but point wise there has been a drop, and most noticeable is that in his short time with the Leafs, Tavares’ small sample is underwhelming.
The optimist in me says that adding a .79 ppg center to the mix against the Bruins is a huge upgrade over last year, so there’s that, and not much can really be made from four games, although four game samples are going to feel really important over the next couple of months.
How has he matched up against key Bruins over the past three seasons?
I really thought when I started this exercise we were going to be feeling so much better about this. I mean, the fact that Kevan Miller isn’t playing really makes this sting, and searching for a match up against Matt Grzelcyk seems like a pain in the ass.
I guess if I’m going to silver-lining this we can look at the Goals For % column which at least seems to support that against Chara he finds a way to get the puck in the net. We probably should look at the fact that Marchand, Pastrnak and Krug have had no problem playing against Tavares, and perhaps the Leafs should try to match the Auston Matthews line to the Bergeron line as much as possible.
A lot of those numbers are weighted by a bad 2017-18 Islanders team, and the fact that Auston Matthews and William Nylander didn’t appear in a couple of games against the Bruins this year and that led to heavier coverage for players like Tavares and Mitch Marner. While there is a harsh truth to how Tavares has fared against the Bruins, both he and the Leafs will be fully operational for this series and improvement isn’t out of the question.