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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Who do you want the Maple Leafs to face in the first round?

It’s almost time for the playoffs which means the fun of guessing who the Maple Leafs will play in the first round of the post-season.

As it currently stands with Florida taking the Atlantic Division into their own hands, Toronto will likely be put up against the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fun, right?

The more the season goes on, the higher the chance it seems that the Maple Leafs will take on the defending Stanley Cup champions. However, there’s still a chance they can still face their (believed to be) kryptonite.

With all of that being said, we put the TLN writers to the test and asked: Who would you like the Leafs to face in the first round of the playoffs?

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Ryan Hobart:

For me it’s definitely the Bruins. I know that the Lightning have been pretty quiet this season, even with Kucherov mostly healthy. It’s probably a lot harder to put yourself in top mental shape for the regular season coming off of two Cup wins. I think they’re going to turn the jets on when the playoffs start and they can go for that three-peat. I wouldn’t want to be in their way at all. The added bonus of slaying an old demon with the Bruins would be great too.

Nick Richard:

Boston because fuck Boston.

Michael Mazzei:

Boston for me. I know the history between these two teams have not been favourable for the Leafs in the last 10 years. It’s what happens when you lose three game sevens in their barn, one of them being an infamous blown lead. Not only would beating the Bruins be a slaying of the dragon moment, but could be the moral boost that could propel this team in the right direction. It would no doubt be awesome to see the Leafs end the Lightning’s rein of terror, but the emotional part of me wants to see the Leafs clash with the Bruins one more time.

Dylan Murphy:

Bruins for me. And the reason why comes down to three words: “Slay. The. Dragon”

We see it time and time again- teams have to go through teams that tortured them in playoff series’ in the past to find ultimate success: Washington had to go through Pittsburgh, Tampa had to go through a Columbus team that swept them the year before, and countless other examples over the years. What better way for Toronto to finally kill some of the demons that haunt the franchise than by going through the team that has handed them some of the most humiliating defeats in the team’s history?

Mark Norman:

One of my favourite scenes from All or Nothing was when Paul MacLean said “They got demons in their heads, they got them in their car, they’ve got them under their beds. Everywhere they turn there’s a demon.” It perfectly encapsulated the mental struggle this team has gone through every playoffs.

One of the biggest reasons for these demons is the Boston Bruins, and while the Leafs have fared well against the Bruins this season, I still don’t think there’s a team in this league that can get the Leafs off their game in the playoffs quite like Boston and their collection of pests. For that reason I’m choosing the Tampa Bay Lightning as my preferred matchup.

What better way to prove you belong than to defeat the two-time defending champs? Not only do the Leafs match up better stylistically with Tampa, but they would likely come out of that series less beaten and bruised than they would against Boston. I could go the rest of my life without hearing the Bruins home goal horn during a Leafs playoff game and be happy about it.

The biggest risk with a Tampa series is the goaltending mismatch. Andrei Vasilevskiy is still the best goaltender in the world even if he has had a down year by his standards. Jack Campbell has been very up and down, and there’s not much room for error against Tampa’s high-powered offence. There’s absolutely a risk of getting goalied out of a Tampa series, but the hope is that this team’s offensive firepower can overcome that.

If the Leafs are going to overcome their demons, I’d rather not mix in their history of failure against the Bruins to add to the pressure.

Jon Steitzer:

I can’t imagine two worse options to choose from when it comes to a first round playoff opponent. You either are stuck with the reigning back to back Stanley Cup Champions or the team that has been haunting the Leafs playoff dreams for nearly a decade now.
If we’re looking at the regular season results so far, maybe it’s a matter of taking a deep breath and realizing the Leafs have the potential to handle either of these teams.

There’s a lot of talk about “Slaying the Dragon” but honestly, there are two dragons here and if the thought is get the toughest opponent out of the way first, then you probably want to face Tampa.

Me, I’m just going to answer this question from a personal standpoint. I hate Boston sports fans. I don’t like what I become when I become invested in a series against Boston, and for my own personal sanity, I’d rather have a best on best series against Tampa that at the end of I can feel like the better team won and I can move on with my life with a bit more dignity than I’d have in a Boston series.

Nick Barden:

In recent years, I’ve always been afraid of the Maple Leafs taking on the Lightning, especially in the playoffs. But not this year for some reason.

Whether it’s Boston, Tampa, or Florida (who Toronto will likely get in the second round), I think the Maple Leafs are strong enough to beat each team. When you look at the defensive additions and the depth on the front and backend, they’re going to be a tough matchup. And as much as we discuss how these teams are scary, I’m sure the opposing teams think the same of Toronto.

I think I would want the Maple Leafs to take Boston in the first round just because of their history. It would be a nice high in Toronto if they eliminated Bruins, but it would also be a horrific low if they didn’t. At this point, though, I think fans would be upset with whoever would eliminate them in the first round.

It would be enjoyable to see Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and the rest of the team have success against Boston in the first round. I believe they could do the same thing against Tampa too.

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Hopefully they do the thing (get past the first round).

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