Bruins Look to Kuraly & Kuhlman to KO Leafs

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Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/Getty Images

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter: @CSthinks

In a playoff series that features an excess of star-power and offensive prowess, an appreciation for roster depth can often go by the wayside. The Boston Bruins, despite boasting arguably the best forward line in hockey, have proven to fall short of the Toronto Maple Leafs when considering world-class skill at the forward position. The collection of Marner, Matthews, and Tavares, when supplemented by several players that could slot in as top-6 forwards on most teams (Johnsson, Kapanen, Nylander, Marleau, Hyman), has outshined the forward units of the Black and Gold for the better part of the series.

The Bruins have been able to string together enough bounce-back wins to even the series at three games apiece, and have been lucky to do so, as they have struggled to find a lineup that provides them with their best matchup against a high-skilled Toronto squad. However, Game 6 on Sunday might have sparked some hope for the Boston faithful as the series concludes after Tuesday’s Game 7 in Boston.

For the vast majority of Sunday’s Game 6, the Bruins maintained almost complete control. They out-chanced the Leafs. They out-worked the Leafs. They killed penalties. They rallied for three unanswered goals after surrendering the game’s first tally. They created their own energy with their backs against the wall in a game on the road. To say the least (apart from the final 10 minutes of the game), Sunday’s effort was largely encouraging for the Bruins and their fans. It showcased the team’s most complete effort throughout the course of a 60-minute battle, and did so in the face of adversity and immense pressure.

Why?

Here’s a fun fact for hockey fans everywhere: The Boston Bruins have, in their entire history as an organization, never lost a playoff game in which both Sean Kuraly and Karson Kuhlman were in the lineup for Boston.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why this is the case. Is it because their last names begin with ‘K’? Is it because they both come from the Midwest? Is it because they both bring a workman style approach to each game?

These are all fair questions. Quite simply, the Bruins have never lost when both players take the ice in the playoffs (1-0-0, 1.00 Win %) because of the completeness of their game, and the versatility that each player provides.

While Kuhlman and Kuraly play somewhat different styles and have suited up among mostly different linemates during the 2018-2019 campaign, they both possess the necessary speed to compete with Toronto’s forward units. Their ability to get behind Toronto’s defensemen on the forecheck is invaluable in a series that, for the first four or five games, featured a Toronto defensive unit that broke the puck out of their zone with relative ease. While David Backes and Chris Wagner (the two Bruins relegated to the press box in lieu of Kuhlman and Kuraly) play a somewhat physical game, their deficiencies as skaters proved to be too much for Bruce Cassidy to continue to put them on the ice.

Kuraly’s game is mostly devoted to North/South trajectories and an ability to lug the puck from zone to zone, and Kuhlman’s game can also feature similar attributes. In a “grind it out” style of game, Kuhlman can use his legs and grit to be effective and keep things simple. However, in a more skill and creativity-centric game, Kuhlman also possesses the necessary skill set to make plays, and pass the puck well. The combination of puck possession and play-making ability between Kuraly and Kuhlman prove to bring much more to the table than the one-dimensional styles of both Backes and Wagner.

The Bruins’ lineup is deeper throughout with both Kuhlman and Kuraly on the ice. Cassidy has shown that he trusts both players in the later minutes of games, when he has shortened his bench during crucial minutes. The Bruins, especially in a Game 7, cannot afford to suit up forwards who can’t be trusted in crucial minutes and high-pressured situations. Wagner and Backes’s minutes in the late stages of their most recent playoff games reveal just how little Cassidy can trust their play, at least in this particular series. Having more bodies that can be effective on Cassidy’s bench is paramount in the latter stages of playoff games, as they will be able to provide Cassidy’s top players with adequate rest, so that they can continue to play at their highest level when the Bruins need them most.

 

It’s been said before, but it’s worth restating: The Bruins have never lost a playoff game in which both Kuraly and Kuhlman have been in the lineup for Boston.

I’m no rocket scientist (yet), but I don’t need to be in order to know that I wouldn’t bet against that combination of K’s as they look to KO Toronto in Game 7.

Kuhlman and Kuraly? That’s deep.

Bruins Game 29 Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs

Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

There’s no question that the Boston Bruins are struggling. They are currently on a three-game skid, losing to three different Atlantic Division foes in the past week. On Saturday night they will host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs are having a tremendous year and are in second place across the entire league. They are 5-0-1 in their last six contests, propelling themselves to a record of 20-8-1 overall. It will be a big challenge for Boston – a challenge they might not exactly be up for.

Who’s Hot?

David Pastrnak is just about the only Bruin who hasn’t succumb to sub-par play since Patrice Bergeron fell out of the lineup due to an injury. The team’s top center has missed nine games to date, a period in which Boston has gone 4-4-1. However, during that time Pastrnak has been able to continue producing, coming up with three goals and four assists despite Bergeron’s absence. The Bruins really need someone else to step up, however. Bergeron could be out through the holidays – if not longer – and Pastrnak can’t net Boston wins on his own.

Pastrnak Leafs

Credit: Getty Images/Maddie Meyer

Auston Matthews is one of the biggest names in the NHL today and for good reason. Toronto had lost one of their star centers for a number of games this season. The Maple Leafs went 9-5-0 during his absence. Though that is still a great record, they have been even better with him, going 11-3-1. In the four games Matthews has appeared in since his return, the center has put together a four-game point streak featuring five goals and three assists.

The Leafs’ starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen, is on a four-game winning streak. He made 38 saves in each of those four victories. He gave up 11 goals in the process, but Toronto’s offense did enough to put his team over the top. Andersen will be getting the start on Saturday, and it would be surprising if he didn’t have a good outing against the Bruins who have evidently struggled to get pucks to the back of the net.

Who’s Not?

Just about everyone besides Pastrnak hasn’t been up to snuff for Boston. Whether it’s a lack of execution or physicality, poor defense or just being a step behind the opponent, the Bruins are not meeting expectations by any means. Secondary scoring has been a problem all season and it has become more prevalent without Bergeron anchoring the top line.

Even Brad Marchand hasn’t been himself without his highly-skilled centerman. Many are calling for some trades – especially if Bergeron is to be out for an even longer period time than originally expected. That may be a route Boston needs to go if the team they are icing right now can’t come together and snag some victories.

Marchand Maple Leafs

Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP

William Nylander made waves this season as he and his team were at odds over contract negotiations. With just minutes to spare before the Dec. 1 deadline, the restricted free agent signed with the Leafs and has returned to action. Nylander hasn’t been struggling – he has only played one game this season – but it is worth noting that the young winger likely isn’t in his best form after missing two full months of the season. It will likely take Nylander a little while to get going, but a contest against a struggling Boston team could be just what he needs to jump-start his season.

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Outlook

It’s like beating a dead horse at this point, but the Bruins have quite simply been bad this past week. Yes, injuries play a role in that. However, on paper, they have the skill to overcome the losses of Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller – at least in the short-term. They will be missing Jake DeBrusk as well, which is certainly not a good sign for the Bruins.

The Maple Leafs are red hot entering Saturday’s matchup. It could be a slaughter if the Bruins don’t find their A-game by the drop of the puck. Jaroslav Halak will be getting the start, and he will likely be tested early and often.

In their playoff series in April, the Matthews line was halted by both Bergeron’s unit and Chara’s defensive pair. With the Bruins missing both of those players, along with the Maple Leafs’ addition of John Tavares over the offseason, this is going to be a big challenge.

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Boston Bruins: No Easy Path To Playoffs

Brad Marchand

(Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins made a magical playoff push last season, netting them second place in the Eastern Conference. The team finished with a record of 50-19-12 dubbing them one of the best teams in the NHL during the 2017-18 season. This year, Boston’s path to Atlantic Division supremacy will be one of their toughest grinds yet.

Though young Bruins such as Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and Brandon Carlo will likely see improvement this year, it may not be enough to take down some of their most formidable opponents. These teams also feature rosters stacked with young players looking to make an even bigger impact during the 2018-19 campaign, making their path to the top of the Atlantic Division much more difficult.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning are undoubtedly one of the most feared teams in the Atlantic Division and the NHL as a whole. As a coach, when you see Tampa Bay on the schedule, you circle that date and make sure your starting goaltender is ready to go for that matchup.

The Lightning wrapped up the 2017-18 regular season with a record of 54-23-5 netting them 113 points and Atlantic Division champions. Come playoff time, they skated by the New Jersey Devils and the Bruins with just one loss in each series. They then took the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the Washington Capitals to seven games before trading their hockey bags for golf bags.

Bruins Lightning Handshake

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Nikita Kucherov tallied 100 points last year, followed by Steven Stamkos with 86 points and 21-year-old Brayden Point with 66. In addition to Point, they have a young roster featuring names like Mikhail Sergachev and Andrei Vasilevskiy. In other words, Tampa’s strong showing last year is expected to give way to stronger performances for the foreseeable future.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are another top contender in the Atlantic Division. After adding John Tavares, the team seems poised to improve upon last year’s record of 49-26-7. The Leafs were led by a slew of youngsters last season by the names of  William Nylander (61 points), Mitch Marner (69 points), and Auston Matthews who put up 63 points in just 62 games. The latter two forwards seem excited that their team was able to reel in Tavares this summer:

Toronto was a tough customer in the first round of the playoffs for Boston and is expected to be throughout the 2018-19 campaign. In fact, the Leafs won the regular season series against the Bruins with a record of 3-1. Boston’s road against Toronto is only expected to get tougher, and the Leafs may find themselves ahead of the Bruins in the standings at this season’s end.

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers nearly squeaked into the playoffs last season but could very well snag more than a wild card spot this year. The Bruins went 1-3 against the Panthers during the 2017-18 season and could very well see the same fate once more. Young players like Henrik Borgstrom, Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trochek, and Jonathan Huberdeau are expected to make considerable contributions to Florida’s cause.

The addition of Mike Hoffman this offseason was a solid acquisition despite his debacle with Erik Karlsson before leaving the Ottawa Senators. He threatens to push the team to new heights which doesn’t bode well for Boston. The Bruins and Panthers could very well find themselves battling each other for a playoff spot in the last few games of the season.

In the end, Boston’s playoff push will not come with guaranteed results. A handful of their division rivals only seem to be getting better heading into the 2018-19 season, creating quite the test for the Bruins this year.

Boston Bruins: Round 1 Game 4 Preview

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Roman Polak (46) battles Boston Bruins right wing David Backes (42) in front of Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) during second period NHL round one playoff hockey action in Toronto on Monday, April 15, 2018.

Photo Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

By: Lucas Salvatore | Check me out on Twitter @lsalvatore29

After dropping game 3 in Toronto on Monday, the Boston Bruins look to bounce back and take a stranglehold on this series.

Finally, it took two games, but the Toronto Maple Leafs finally showed up in front of their home fans and put a victory together. While they did win the game and scored four goals, the most significant impact was one by goaltender Fredrick Andersen who stole this game from the Bruins.

The Bruins will need to finish their chances when they come in game 4 as the NHL is a cruel league doesn’t matter how hard or how well you play if you cant finish your chances you’re gonna get burned and the Bruins felt that in game 3.

Look for them to come out strong, they will try and get the crowd out of it early. These should be two desperate hockey clubs as the Toronto Maple Leafs will want to go back to Boston with this series 2-2, but the Bruins will look to crush any hopes the Leafs might have had coming into this game with a victory tonight.

Tomas Plekanec had an incredible game playing alongside Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner the Bruins will need to be more worried about this match-up. Trying to move the Bergeron line away from them might be a difficult task considering this game is in Toronto.

Lineup

 Thing You Need To Know

  • Nazim Kadri is serving the final game of his suspension
  • Matt Grzelcyk is expected to return after missing game 3
  • Leo Komarov is expected to miss his second straight game
  • The home team has won every game in this series

Players To Watch

Boston

David Pastrnak: After being robbed and getting no bounces to go his way for the first time in the series look for the Bruins winger to go back to simple hockey in game 4. David should have nothing to worry about if he keeps playing his game after being held pointless for the first time this round and being on the other end of a save of the year candidate this is what David had to say.

Sean Kuraly: The Bruins fourth line scored both goals for Boston in game 3, and Kuraly picked up two assists giving him three points in three games thus far. This fourth line can prove to be a difference maker for these games in Toronto as Boston looks for them to create momentum in their favor. They can skate with any line, and it will be necessary for Kuraly and his linemates to continue their strong play in game 4.

Toronto 

Patrick Marleau: Marleau picked up two goals Monday night as the Leafs new-look second line seemed to be found money. Playing alongside Mitch Marner and Tomas Plekanec the trio was able to shut down the Bergeron line which was crucial for the Leafs to win game 3.

Auston Matthews: Ok you guys can put the wanted signs away Matthews showed up in a big way in game 3 scoring the game-winning goal. This will prove to be a killer for the Bruins if they do not reduce his time and space. It was a matter of time for him to get on the board lets just hope a beast hasn’t woken up.

BNG Predictions

Lucas Salvatore: 5-3 Boston

KG: 4-3 Boston

Max Mainville: 4-3 Boston

Mike Cratty: 5-3 Boston

Garrett Haydon: 3-1 Boston

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins Game Recap: ECQF Game 3 – 04/16/18

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PHOTO CREDITS: (RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

BEFORE PUCK DROP 

Morning Rushes:

Bruins Injury Report as of 1pm EST:

Riley Nash is expected to play following an ear laceration suffered late in the season that kept him out of the first two games in the series.

Tommy Wingels is cleared to play after he was injured by Leafs’ Kadri in Game One, who was given a three-game suspension for the play. However, head coach Cassidy says that Wingels will most likely be a healthy scratch for Game Three.

Matt Grzelcyk suffered a lower-body injury in Game Two, he is doubtful to skate in the game. Defenceman Nick Holden expected to take his spot if Grzelcyk is unable to play.

What To Possibly Expect:

The Bruins have been stellar in the first two games in this first round matchup, scoring 12 goals and allowing only four from the Toronto team. Boston was able to kick out Frederik Andersen in Game Two as he allowed three Bruins goals on only four shots in the first period. With that, Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock claims that Andersen will start in goal for Game Three. Also in the game, Bruins d-man, Kevan Miller collided with Leafs forward, Leo Komarov, who withstood the majority of the impact. He is expected to be scratched for the game.

Warmups:

First Period:

As predicted everywhere, the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to come out of the gates quickly and they did just that. Toronto steered away from the physical play that they tried to use against the Bruins in the first two games of the series and played the style of hockey that got them into the playoffs in the first place – speed and skill.

For the majority of the first twenty minutes, Tuukka Rask held his own between the pipes, making 11 saves on 12 Toronto shots including some big saves on Kasperi Kapanen.

Similar to Game Two, Kapanen sped past the Boston d-men and was all alone against Rask. On Saturday’s chance, Rask looked unsure, leaving the net wide open only for Kapanen to ring it off the post, demoralizing the Leafs. However, this time, Rask stayed strong and followed Kapanen, making a solid save. Kapanen didn’t have the best shot, but a big momentum boost for the Bruins.

A change from what B’s fans are used to, Boston lost the battle on the faceoff dots, going 46% compared to Toronto’s 54%. Faceoff wizard, Patrice Bergeron went 1-for-3 on the dot against Bozak in the period, including a defensive zone defeat that led to the only goal of the period.

End of period: Leafs 1-0, Shots 12-8 Leafs

Second Period:

Oh, you wanted goals? Goals are all we got in the second period and for what seems like all series-long so far, the goals were not all from the Bruins.

As absolutely everyone suspected, Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid scored the tying goal just over three minutes into the second frame. The goal was set up by an always hard-working Bruins fourth line, who won crucial puck battles before Tim Schaller found McQuaid on the point, Quaider’s shot trickled by Andersen, making it 1-1.

Toronto, however, would do a great job eliminating the momentum of the road team, as Patrick Marleau scores on a Mitch Marner pass, beating Rask.

The game continued to be back-and-forth, as the series was supposed to be all throughout until Boston captain Zdeno Charo lasered a sharp-angle shot off of Andersen’s head, tying the hockey game once again. Chara was forced to take the outside as the middle was clustered with blue sweaters, but clearly, Big Zee doesn’t need the middle of the ice.

For the remaining minutes of the second period, which in my opinion has been the best period to watch for both teams, the puck bounced from end-to-end. Both teams had numerous chances, but it was superstar forward Auston Matthews, scoring his first point and goal of the playoffs. The top line for the B’s got caught tired in the defensive zone led to a poor play along the boards by Pastrnak and Matthews sniped it past Rask.

The period would finish with more pressure by the Maple Leafs as well as some saves from both netminders.

End of 2nd Period: 3-2 Leafs, Shots 24-23 BOS

Third Period:

Entering the final period down by a goal for the first time in the playoffs, the Boston Bruins needed a goal sooner rather than later.

Boston would go on their first power play of the night only 26 seconds into the game, a hooking call on Patrick Marleau. Boston would have some solid opportunities on the man-advantage, but no such luck when it comes to putting the puck past Frederik Andersen.

Boston outshot Toronto by a sizable margin within the final period, 18-7. Statistically, the Bruins played better than the Leafs. More shots, fewer giveaways (12 for TOR, 5 for BOS), and more blocked shots, one of them being by Adam McQuaid in the neck area.

Following some possible missed calls against the Maple Leafs and some continuous chances by Boston, Patrick Marleau would eventually score his second goal of the game, giving Toronto a two-goal lead, solidifying the victory.

As usual, the black and gold would not go out without a fight. Morgan Rielly and Brad Marchand each had offsetting penalties, meaning a four-on-four game for nearly the remainder of the game. Boston fired many one-timers, wrist shots, deflections. Anything to hopefully get one goal closer. The best chance from Boston was robbed with the stick of Andersen, which essentially sealed the deal.

There were three main issues tonight for the Bruins in the loss. One, being on the road against Toronto is not an easy task, especially this season. Two, the Maple Leafs were very disciplined tonight compared to the previous two outings, preventing the B’s powerplay from getting hot again. And finally, the Bruins missed many chances to score when it mattered the most.

Final Score: 4 – TOR vs 2 BOS (BOS leads series 2-1)

Three Stars: 

1st Star – TOR G Frederik Andersen

2nd Star – TOR F Patrick Marleau

3rd Star – TOR D Morgan Rielly

The two teams now have a two-day break before Game Four in Toronto on Thursday night. Scheduled puck drop is for 7:00pm EST.

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins: Round 1 Game 3 Preview

stanley cup playoffs 2018

Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By: Lucas Salvatore | Check me out on Twitter @lsalvatore29

Following two blow out games at home the Boston Bruins will be tested in a hostile environment Monday night at the Air Canada Center.

The story of the series so far has been the Bruins top line posting 20 points in two games between them. David Pastrnak has been exceptional so far with nine of those twenty points and will look to continue his strong play on the road for game three and four.

The Bruins may be getting a familiar face back into the lineup as it is expected that forward Riley Nash will make his series debut returning from an ear injury that left him with concussion symptoms.

The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to down spiral as forward Leo Komarov will be held out of game three as he was injured from a hit by Kevan Miller during game two. Look for former Bruin Dominic Moore to make his series debut and be the new fourth line center for the Leafs.

Matt Grzelyck was not on the ice for morning skate Monday morning coach Bruce Cassidy said he has a lower-body injury and if the young defensemen cannot play tonight trade deadline acquisition Nick Holden will slide in on the third pair along with Adam McQuaid.

Here is what to expect out of the Bruins lineup for game three. 

Things You Need To Know

  • Ryan Donato will return to the press box after playing in game two.
  • The Bruins will have both Nash’s in the lineup for the first time since March 17th.
  • David Pastrnak has as many goals as the entire Maple Leafs squad so far ( 4 goals).
  • Tomas Plekanec will play on the Leafs second line tonight.
  • Nazim Kadri is serving game two of his three-game suspension.

Players To Watch 

Boston

David Pastrnak: After scoring four goals and five assists in two games so far this series it is vital for the Leafs to solve Pasta if they expect to win at least one game this series. The lost of Komarov and Kadri make the Leafs even weaker on defensive depth and really should make this an even more laborious task. Look for Mike Babcock to chase matchups all night long which should not worry Pastrnak or the entire team for that matter.

David Krejci: Playoff David Krejci is back, but this time he’s quietly going about his business as the Bruins top line has been getting the spotlight. The Bruins power play is running at 50%, and Krejci is a big part of it, but it is the Bruins second line which fans should look at. Jake DeBrusk and Rick Nash have already gotten on the board and have looked dominant so far in the series. Krejci is the driving force of this line and should the Bruins top line stop producing which is unlikely at this point this line is more than capable of running the show for Boston.

Toronto   

Auston Matthews: The Leafs first line center was overwhelmed in Boston as he could not get anything going. Look for him to be explosive tonight in front of his home fans and really push the pace and show once again how great of a player he really is. If this series is going to change for Toronto, Matthews will be the guy leading the charge.

Nikita Zaitsev: After being on the ice for four goals against in game two many speculated that Zaitsev would be taken out of the lineup for game three. Looking at morning skate for the leafs Zaitsev will be playing tonight with Jake Gardner as the Leafs defense remains untouched. This is a massive opportunity for Zaitsev look for him to be more physical in front of the net and try and be more of an offensive presence which Toronto desperately needs.

BNG Predictions 

Lucas Salvatore: 4-2 Boston

KG: 4-2 Boston

Max Mainville: 3-2 Boston in OT

Mike Cratty: 4-3 Boston in OT

Garrett Haydon: 4-2 Leafs

 

 

 

Boston Bruins: Game 1 Preview

Photo by Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

By Lucas Salvatore | Follow me on Twitter @lsalvatore29

Its an original six Playoff matchup at TD Garden Thursday night as the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs get ready for game one of the 2018 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals.

For the 15th time in NHL history, these two franchises will face off in best of seven series. This season it was the Leafs who won the season series three games to one. The games were a mix of 4-1 blowouts and tight contest respectively 3-2 and 4-3 featuring one overtime game. This will be the first playoff contest between these two clubs since the famous game seven collapses by the Maple Leafs in 2013. Only seven members from the Bruins remain and five from the Maple Leafs.

This new installment of this rivalry will include some of the games brightest young stars such as Charlie McAvoy and Auston Matthews as well as future Hockey Hall of Famers Zdeno Chara and Patrick Marleau. The mix of veterans and youth will be on full display as the Leafs have one of the NHL best offensive teams, but the Bruins hold a defensive advantage.

 

Practice Lines 

Things you need to know 

  • Riley Nash will not play in game one but has not been ruled out for game two.
  • Ryan Donato appears to be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game.
  • Nick Holden and Brian Gionta will also be a healthy scratch.
  • The Bruins have not won a home playoff game since 2014.
  • The Leafs have not defeated the Bruins in a Playoff series since 1959.

Players To Watch

Boston 

Rick Nash: Returning from a concussion that has kept him out of game action since March 17th it will be interesting to see how fast the Bruins power forward can adapt to the hectic playing style this series will undoubtedly bring. Rick who is seen by many as a playoff disappearing act will most likely have his last chance to prove himself as a clutch player playing alongside proven playoff performer David Krejci.

Torey Krug: Torey did not participate in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring due to injury. Look for him to come out with a lot of energy and push the pace as the Bruins look to attack early. The blueliner has recorded sixteen points in twenty-seven playoff games and was also ranked ninth in points amongst defensemen this season. Krug led the way against the Leafs this season for Boston scoring four points in four games played.

Toronto

Auston Matthews: The former first overall draft selection already made a statement in the postseason last spring against the Washington Capitals scoring four goals in six games. Auston has spent time on the shelf this year and missed 3 of the four meetings between the two clubs earlier this season. It will be interesting to see how the Leafs number one center matches up against Patrice Bergeron in one of the series leading storylines.

Mitch Marner He has been a Bruins killer this season putting up nine points in four games between the two clubs. Marner while not having the best start this season found his stride during the second half and looks to continue the momentum going into this series. Watch for him to create a lot of plays especially on the powerplay as he uses his vision and speed to open up lanes.

Final Prediction: 4-2 Bruins Win

 

What’s The Best First-Round Matchup For The Boston Bruins?

PHOTO CREDITS: (news.hockeydraft.ca)

By: Max Mainville   |   Follow Me On Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

A few days ago, I made a poll on my Twitter account, (follow it for the latest news), asking Bruins fans which team they would rather see the Bruins play in the first round of the upcoming 2018 NHL Playoffs. The poll results did not come as a surprise, as the majority of fans wanted to see Boston/New Jersey, mainly feeling that the Bruins had a better chance at winning the seven-game series against the Devils.

At the moment of writing this article, the Florida Panthers are still in the mix for the Eastern Conference playoff race, as they are only three points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild-card position, with two games in hand. However, for simplicity’s sake, we will stick to the three main teams that the B’s could meet in the first round.

One more note before we dive into this, the thoughts below are of my own opinion, based on statistics. I would love to hear your personal opinions on the matter, but without further ado, here we go.

Toronto Maple Leafs 

The Toronto Maple Leafs come out as the clear favorite to be the team that gets to play Boston in Round One. As of March 29th at 7:00am CST, the Maple Leafs currently sit in the third Atlantic division spot, with a record of 46-24-7, good for 99 points. Toronto has been in this spot for an extended amount of time, as the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, happen to be in this one division.

Season Series:

First off, how have the Bruins done so far this season with the Leafs? Out of all three teams that we will cover, the Bruins have won the least amount of games against the Leafs than the other ones. In all four games of the season series, the Bruins went 1-2-1 against Toronto. The sole victory over the Ontario team came on February 3rd, a 4-1 win.

Biggest Strength:

Ever since the Leafs signed longtime Detroit Red Wings’ head coach, Mike Babcock, the youth movement has taken over. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander are the biggest names that headline the roster filled with players under 25 years of age. Mixed in with older veterans and a goaltender that can be solid on most nights, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a recipe for success to be a good team in the NHL for many years to come.

 

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PHOTO CREDITS: (ftw.usatoday.com)

Biggest Weakness:

One flaw that the Leafs seem to have, is the number of shots they allow in a game. The team currently ranks as the team who allows the fourth-most shots per game (33.9), while the Bruins allow the second-least amount of shots per game (29.2). This statistic highlights the weakness of the defensive core and the amount of reliance they place on their two goalies, Frederik Anderson and Curtis McElhinney.

Best Player:

As stated previously above, Toronto is loaded with talented forwards and two solid goalies, but without question, the best player on the Maple Leafs has to be 2016 1st overall draft pick, Auston Matthews. Even with multiple injuries during the course of the 2017-2018 season, Matthews has continued to produce points at an All-Star level. In 57 games, Matthews has 30-24-54 totals, along with a team-leading +21 rating. Matthews is able to create offense in the zone with the best of them and can be a threat on the ice at any given time. However, he will be going toe-to-toe with arguably the best two-way player in the National Hockey League, Patrice Bergeron.

New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils hold the second wild-card spot with a 40-28-8 record, good for 88 points. Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers won in regulation over the Colorado Avalanche, jumping ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are now in the first wild-card position. New Jersey trails the Blue Jackets by a mere three points, with a single game in hand.

Season Series:

Boston has fared well against the New Jersey Devils this season, winning all three meetings, scoring 11 goals in total while allowing seven. The most recent affair between the two organizations was a 5-3 win for the Black and Gold on February 11th. The other two games were much closer, two 3-2 victories for the Bruins, including one in a shootout.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Steven Ryan | Getty Images)

Biggest Strength:

The New Jersey Devils really only have one blaring strength, forward Taylor Hall. Earlier this year, Hall went on an incredible point streak, 26 games in fact, before it came to an end against the Winnipeg Jets in March. Taylor was acquired by the Devils from the Edmonton Oilers, where he seemed to struggle even though he had reigning Art Ross winner, Connor McDavid, on his team. In only 71 games during the 2017-18 season, Hall has already surpassed his previous NHL point record of 80 points, with 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists). Taylor Hall has to be on top of his game and then some if he wants to carry the Devils past the first round.

Biggest Weakness:

For New Jersey, their biggest issue in the 2017-18 campaign is the lack of a consistent starting goaltender. Ever since they acquired Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks back in 2013, he has been named the starting goalie. However this season, he has struggled, especially near the end of the season. According to The Bergen Record on March 23rd, Schneider was on a 0-9-1 run, making the chances of him starting another game down the stretch highly unlikely. The other goaltender for the Devils, 28-year-old Keith Kinkaid has 22 wins on the year, with a GAA of 2.85 and a save percentage of .911%. Neither goalie can seemingly be counted on when it matters the most, making for a questionable playoff run.

Best Player:

As mentioned already, Taylor Hall is the best player on the New Jersey Devils at this point. Hall has been able to carry the team to the number of wins that they happen to have at this moment in time, but the question is, will Taylor Hall be able to carry the team into the playoffs, when he has to play against Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, and the rest of the solid Bruins core.

 

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PHOTO CREDITS: (nhl.com)

Philadelphia Flyers

Our final team here on the analysis of the three teams that the Boston Bruins have the best chance of playing is the Philadelphia Flyers. In my opinion, the Flyers are the only team here that the Bruins have the least chance of playing. I cannot see the Devils passing either Columbus or Philadelphia in the wild-card race, but for the sake of my Twitter poll, we will still look at the Philadelphia Flyers.

Season Series:

Unlike the other two teams, the Bruins have not yet completed their season series with the Flyers, as the last game comes on April 1st. However, the previous two meetings between the teams have resulted in wins for the Black and Gold, with the most recent one coming earlier this month, on the eighth of March. The B’s snuck past with a 3-2 win courtesy of a Brad Marchand goal with 22 seconds left on the clock.

Biggest Strength:

The blaring strength for the Flyers this season is the same as the past few seasons – offense. Philadelphia has the third-highest point producer in the NHL, Claude Giroux who is tied with Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin. Giroux has tied his career-best for points, 93, and surpassed his personal record for most assists in a season, 66, while is also tied for the league-lead. The Flyers also happen to have the fourth-highest scoring blueliner, in Shayne Gostisbehere.

Biggest Weakness:

Seems like a continuing trend with these teams, as the main weakness of the Philadelphia Flyers would have to be their goaltending and defensive side of the puck. Between Michal Neuvirth and Petr Mrazek, the Flyers do not have a defined “starting goalie,” as the former holder of that title, Brian Elliott, has been on the injured reserve since February 10th. However, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News, the team hopes to have him back between the pipes for the playoffs, something they badly need as Neuvirth and Mrazek has not been hot as of late.

 

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PHOTO CREDITS: (fastphillysports.com)

Best Player:

Just like the New Jersey Devils, the best player happens to be the highest scoring player. Claude Giroux has not only carried his team individually, but his league-leading assist numbers have brought in some scoring from other players on the team. He needs to be on top of his game and then some if they want to be a competitive team.

My Verdict:

At the end of all this, I personally want to play the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round One. Sure they may be the most difficult team to play against out of the teams listed, but we all know that those seven games will be entertaining and thrilling from beginning to end. I mean who doesn’t like an Original Six playoff round, right?

And there you have it! One thing, in order for the Boston Bruins to play New Jersey or even possibly Columbus or Philadelphia, they need to win tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which would position themselves into first place in the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference.