We here at Causeway Crowd are excited to see the Boston Bruins start their playoff run. Throughout the season, our staff have sparked up some friendly rivalries with other staffs in the network, and I’ve learned to have a very healthy respect for some of the teams in the division. When the staff at our sister station Editor in Leaf sent me an e-mail asking me if I was willing to ask and answer questions on the strengths and opportunities on our teams, I couldn’t say no. Ottawa and Toronto earned their playoff berths and it only seemed fair. The responses come from Tim Bayer, a member of the Editor in Leaf team.
1.) Who do you believe will be the most effective scorer for Toronto in this series?
“Phil Kessel is the Leafs top scorer, but as you know, he’s had his fair share of struggles against his former team. It would obviously help the Leafs tremendously if he produces, but I imagine he’ll be fed a healthy dose of Zdeno Chara this series and probably won’t be given much room to maneuver. This could free up Nazem Kadri to do some damage along with Joffrey Lupul. Tuukka Rask has been stellar against the Leafs so goals might be hard to come by, in which case the Leafs might need guys like Matt Frattin, Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski to step up and deliver offensively. To answer your question though, I’d have to go with Kadri.”
I had Nazem Kadri on my fantasy team, and he was a pleasant surprise for me. He was one of my leading scorers, and his heroics for Toronto pushed me into the playoffs. I can’t disagree with his assessment.
2.) As the Bruins and the Leafs have both had their difficulties in the defensive zone, what are the coaches and players in Toronto trying to do to overcome it?
“This is a good question because the Leafs haven’t been great defensively all year, and may have actually gotten worse the past month or so. They’ve developed a nasty habit of being outshot almost every game, and Randy Carlyle hasn’t really shown he can figure out any way to fix this problem. That being said, the Leafs have seen a marked improvement in their penalty kill, so Carlyle does deserve some credit for that. The addition of defensive specialist Jay McClement has helped in that regard as well. But the Leafs remain a subpar defensive team and will rely heavily (like they’ve done all year) on the strong play of James Reimer in goal.”
Sound familiar Bruins Nation? We’ve had to rely on Tuukka Rask to save our butts on too many occasions this season, and hopefully the defensive problems we’ve had will have been dealt with. Our penalty kill which was number one in the league most of the season, fell to fourth as the Bruins seemed to self destruct in those last ten games. If the Bruins keep up a strong forecheck they should be able to overwhelm Toronto.
3.) What do you believe is the biggest intangible going for the Maple Leafs in this first round of the playoffs?
“I believe the biggest intangible the Leafs have going is the lack of pressure on them in this series. Even though this is the first playoff appearance for the Leafs in nine years, I think most fans just think of this series as icing on the cake of a surprising season. Anybody who picked the Leafs to finish fifth in the conference at the start of the season was probably checked into an insane asylum shortly thereafter. Most of us recognize this team still has significant holes and has benefitted from an absurdly high shooting percentage and outstanding goaltending this season. The Bruins, on the other hand, are expected to go deep in the playoffs every year. If the Leafs can steal one of the first two games in Boston, that will set them up well to come home to an Air Canada Centre crowd that will be going absolutely bananas.”
I don’t think the Bruins will have much trouble bringing their own brand of pressure this game. In a way, we’ve been spoiled. Thanks to Claude Julien and the team, we’ve been to the playoffs for the last six seasons. I also vaguely remember Zdeno Chara hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head in 2011.
The biggest intangible I see for us is that the Toronto fan base is rabid. This is the Leafs’ first playoff run in a decade, and they are considered to be a billion dollar franchise. We’re all Boston Strong, and we bleed black and gold, but those Leafs fans are fanatical.
I thought I’d leave the last words to our own Milan Lucic. “To be playing the team that we’re playing is going to be a real hard battle. We’re not looking at what’s happened in the past or what’s happened this year in the [regular] season. We’re looking at what we need to do to make sure our game is at our best and what we need to do to win this series, and we know they’re going to come out hard. We know there’s a lot of buzz around that team, a lot of buzz around that city, and we’ve got to make sure we come out in Game One playing the way that we know how to play.”