Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Factor returns as the Maple Leafs visit the Presidents’ Trophy winning Bruins: Leafs Tailgate
By Nick Alberga10 months ago
After missing 14 games with a broken finger, Ryan O’Reilly is expected to return to the Maple Leafs (46-21-10) lineup tonight when they visit the Boston Bruins (60-12-5).
The 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner has been out since March 4th when he took an errant point shot off his left hand against the Canucks. It required surgery.
Through three meetings, Boston leads the season series 2-1. After Toronto grabbed the opener, the B’s have two in a row. With five games remaining, the Bruins are two wins shy of the single season record of 62 set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96.
Meantime, the Leafs, who are coming off a 4-2 win on home ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, are still trying to lock down second in the Atlantic Division. With five games left, they’re six points up on Tampa with a game in hand.
TIME: 7 PM ET (Sportsnet Ontario)
TOR Ilya Samsonov – LIKELY (25-10-4, 2.41, 0.915,4 SO)
BOS Jeremy Swayman – CONFIRMED (21-6-4, 2.24, 0.919, 4 SO)
THE FACT DADDY’S BACK!
In eight outings before breaking his finger, Ryan O’Reilly was humming right along with three goals and five points playing predominantly on a line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Tonight, judging by the lines at the morning skate, it looks like O’Reilly will centre the third line between Alex Kerfoot and Noel Acciari. That said, I wouldn’t put much stock into anything we see over the final six games until the puck drops for Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Furthermore, I do think 3C makes a lot of sense for O’Reilly. On top of that, I think it presents a match-up nightmare for the opposition with John Tavares and Auston Matthews ahead of him in the pecking order. Of course, everything’s dependent on chemistry. We’ll see what this Kerfoot-ROR-Acciari trio looks like.
Take the under. I love the call by Sheldon Keefe to start Ilya Samsonov. No. 1, given his home/road splits, he needs the reps away from Scotiabank Arena. Secondly, I think throwing him out there against Boston is a smart idea and good preparation for what life will ultimately be like when he squares off with Andrei Vasilevskiy in a few weeks. No Linus Ullmark tonight, but make no mistake about it, Jeremy Swayman’s no slouch either. Boston’s as stingy as they come defensively, and in addition to that, they possess a powerful two-headed crease monster. Suffice it is to say, Samsonov will need to be on his game whether it be tonight or a potential series with the Bruins, or the Leafs will have no shot of coming out the victors.
MEASURING STICK GAME
Meaningless game in the standings or not, indisputably, this should be considered another measuring stick game for the Maple Leafs. On top of already being one of Toronto’s storied rivals, the Bruins have been in a class of their own this season. That said, the Leafs beat them in November, so they know it’s doable. Furthermore, you never know what can happen down the road. If Toronto can get by Tampa, chances are very high that the Bruins will be waiting for them in Round 2. It’s never too early to set a tone. There’s five games left; it’s time for the Leafs to start locking things in. From a defensive standpoint, I want to see them bring it tonight. We’ll see how it plays out.
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