Tale of the tape: How the Bruins and Maple Leafs stack up

Photo credit:Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Bennett Jull
7 days ago
Well, it’s that time of year again. Game one. I’ve suppressed many emotions along this 82-game journey knowing that Toronto would find itself in the playoffs once again. There were highs and lows throughout the regular season, but none of that really mattered. All that counts is playoff success, and that (hopefully) begins tonight.
After another 100-plus point campaign, a record year for multiple Maple Leafs, and scoring the second most goals in the league (Colorado had just one more goal than Toronto), the Leafs begin their conquest against a familiar foe – Boston. Again. It’s time to slay the beast that is the Bruins, and this is how the Buds stack up against their Beantown rivals.
To nobody’s surprise, the Bruins were paced by David Pastrnak who put up 110 points, including 47 goals. Brad Marchand finished one away from 30 goals, and those two are undoubtedly Boston’s most dangerous players. Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha each had career years chipping in with 25 and 21 goals, respectively. Beyond that, there isn’t too much that’s really notable. Jake DeBrusk, Morgan Geekie, James van Riemsdyk, and Trent Frederic each notched between 35-40 points. It looks like Boston will deploy a 4th line of John Beecher-Jesper Boqvist-Pat Maroon. While neither Beecher nor Boqvist have ever recorded a playoff point, Maroon brings more playoff experience than anyone in the league. This group on paper certainly isn’t intimidating, but they managed to get the job done this year.
Boston is led by Charlie McAvoy. It looks as though the Bruins are pairing McAvoy with their clearcut No. 2 Hampus Lindholm, likely in an effort to handle the Matthews line. That’s as strong a pairing as you’ll find in the NHL. Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo have been around for years and years, and they form a sturdy 2nd pairing. Boston acquired Andrew Peeke at the deadline, who plays a similar game to that of Ilya Lyubushkin. Kevin Shattenkirk rounds out their d-core, a very formidable one. For what it’s worth, Mason Lohrei, who played in 41 games this year, is a young prospect I think highly of. He’s on the outside looking in to start. This group knows exactly what it takes to get the job done, and the core has been together for years. They are no strangers to Toronto or the playoffs, and they will provide Toronto’s forwards with a strong test.
Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman form what could be the strongest duo in the NHL. While Ullmark’s numbers are nowhere near as gaudy as they were during his Vezina-winning season a year ago, he still posted a 2.57 GAA and a .915 save percentage. His partner in crime Swayman edged those numbers with a 2.53 GAA and .917 save percentage. Regardless of who starts tonight, the Bruins will be at ease. I wonder how long it might take before we see the “backup” in this series. Boston has the clear advantage in net.
The Maple Leafs have a more dynamic forward group, and I would argue that Boston has a more stable D-core. It appears Sheldon Keefe will start Toronto off with Morgan Rielly-Ilya Lyubushkin, Simon Benoit-Jake McCabe, and Joel Edmundson-Timothy Liljegren. This is the exact group I was hoping would play, but let’s see how long it takes before Brodie factors into the series. The group that’s starting game one certainly has some snarl to it. Four of those six can be described as hard to play against, and it will be interesting to watch Rielly’s pairing. I think Lyubushkin is a poor giveaway or two from Brodie slotting right back in. The Bruins have an advantage in net, but Samsonov is certainly capable of giving the Leafs goaltending that’s good enough to win. Can he overcome a wildly inconsistent year and steal a game or two for the Leafs? Do we see Joseph Woll at all?
Ultimately, it will come down to the stars. Forget the big, imposing defenceman, the depth forward additions, or the newly assembled lines. If the Maple Leafs want to win, they will need Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and (hopefully?) William Nylander to be at their best. I can guarantee you that David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand will be ready to go, and if Toronto’s all-star forwards aren’t at the peak of their powers, I don’t like their chances.

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