3 Bruins’ x-factors who will try to crush the Maple Leafs’ dreams

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
7 days ago
The Boston Bruins have had the Toronto Maple Leafs’ number this season. Well, actually they’ve had the Leafs number for decades. While current players on their roster can’t take credit for the drumming that’s been going on since before any of them were born, there are a few Bruins the Leafs are going to have to worry about as X factors during the upcoming first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series.
Boston finished the season second in the Atlantic Division, just barely missing taking the crown from the Florida Panthers who leapfrogged them in the final days. The Bruins won all four regular season games against the Maple Leafs and will look to continue their dominance into the playoffs, facing off against a Sheldon Keefe-led Leafs squad for the first time.
Here’s three Bruins’ x-factors who are going to have a huge impact on the series:

David Pastrnak

Here’s your prize, Captain Obvious. Pastrnak is the engine that runs the Bruins and he’s been a pest in the Leafs this season, collecting seven points in four games. Pasta finished the season with 110 points, the next closest Bruin was Brad Marchand with 67!
The Maple Leafs have had an awful time trying to find a way to shadow Pastrnak and it’s going to take a defence by committee approach to be effective. David Kampf won’t be able to get the jump done by himself, and neither will John Tavares and Mitch Marner. It’s going to take a five-man approach and closing up the time and space and not allowing Pastrnak the chance to get into his sweet spots on the ice. Easier said than done, that’s for sure.
Joel Edmundson, Simon Benoit and Jake McCabe need to lean on the shifty winger whenever they get a chance and the same can be said for whoever is given the assignment up front. The Leafs will need to be physical, and in Pasta’s face, doing whatever they can to throw him out of rhythm.
Pastrnak is a high-volume shooter. He finished this season ranked 2nd in the NHL with 382 shots. Which was actually 25 less shots than last season when he managed to hit the mark 407 times. He didn’t have a career season in 2023-24, but his numbers were off the charts:
The +12 net penalties is something that could creep it’s ugly head into this series so the Leafs will need to be hard on Pastrnak but be disciplined. Limiting the power-play time will be one way to help slow down the offensive machine. If the Leafs can’t stay out of the box, this series won’t be going six or seven games.

Jeremy Swayman/Linus Ullmark

The Bruins goaltending is getting lumped together because regardless of who they start, Boston has the upper hand in net. Jeremy Swayman played three of the four regular season matchups and let’s just say he had the Maple Leafs’ number:
Swayman played slightly more this season overall than Ullmark, however, Ullmark’s been the better of the two Bruins’ goaltenders more recently. They are the best of friends and enjoy each other’s success just as much as their own which makes their tandem a very unique one in Boston.
It would be quite the turn of events to see the Bruins turn to Ullmark first just based on the fact they tried to trade him to the Los Angeles Kings before the March 9 trade deadline but he didn’t approve the move.
While there’s been some regular season success, if Leafs fans want some hope, Swayman’s numbers during the playoffs haven’t been anything to write home about. He’s made eight appearances the past three seasons and holds a record of 3-4 with a .901 Sv.%. Ullmark on the other hand has appeared in eight games over the past two seasons and his numbers are worse, posting a 3-5 record along with a .888 Sv.% and a 3.54 goals-against average. While they haven’t looked beatable in the regular season, the playoff records show a different story.
The Maple Leafs will need to get some bodies in front, and limit how much either netminder can see the puck. Pounce on rebounds and get everything to the net on any power-play that’s handed out. The Bruins duo finished with the 5th best GAA in the league this season, combining for 2.70 per game, compared to the Maple Leafs who ranked 21st at 3.18. There’s no doubt the Bruins hold the upper hand in the crease battle and if either of Swayman or Ullmark find their groove this series, the Maple Leafs, much like against the Florida Panthers last postseason in the second round, could get ‘goalie’d’.

Trent Frederic

Without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in the lineup this time around, the Bruins are going to rely heavily on Trent Frederic to try and slow down the Maple Leafs’ big guns. He won’t be able to do it alone, but Frederic is a huge catalyst of the Bruins’ shut-down line and will play a major part in this series.
The former first-round pick appeared in all 82 regular season games this season and recorded 18 goals and 40 points. He landed a whopping 205 hits and will surely be looking to hit everything that moves in a blue and white jersey the next couple of weeks.
Frederic’s an unsung hero in Boston and was recently recognized for exactly that, receiving the team’s award as Boston’s 7th Player, kind of like a 6th man award in the NBA. Frederic’s likely to see most of his minutes alongside Morgan Geekie and James van Riemsdyk, two players who love to find open space and try to turn defence into offence very quickly. While their linemate does all the dirty work and is aggressive on the forecheck.
If the Maple Leafs spread out their offence and keep William Nylander on the third line alongside Pontus Holmberg and one of Matthew Knies or Nick Robertson, it could be a way to try and limit Frederic’s ability to impact the game. Bruins coach Jim Montgomery will show his hand early on during Game 1 in just what kind of matchups he’s looking for, so expect to see Sheldon Keefe try to tinker and tweak throughout as the matchups throughout this first-round series are going to be fascinating to watch.
While the Leafs have lots to worry about in Pastrnak, and of course the pest, Brad Marchand, Frederic’s ability to be physical, create chances off the rush and generate offence for his ready-to-pounce linemates could go a long way for the Bruins.
Nevertheless, the Maple Leafs have a lot to worry about facing off against the Bruins. Not only are the demons hanging over their heads, this year’s Bruins squad is a much different beast from years past with a series of x-factors in Pastrnak, their goaltending duo and Frederic among the bottom six.  It’s on Keefe to put his fingerprints all over this series and do what he can to outcoach Montgomery and lead the Leafs to the second round.

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