At this point in the season, the first-round postseason matchup for the Boston Bruins is all but set in stone. We’ve known for a while that the Bruins will most likely meet the Toronto Maple Leafs in a first-round rematch. It looks like the B’s will capture home-ice advantage, but with a handful of games left, anything can change.
In no particular order, here are four reasons why the B’s will defeat the Leafs in the first-round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bruins Have A Better Defense
Comparing the two defense corps., the Bruins have a much better defensive rotation. For the playoffs, it looks like the B’s will roll these defense lines if everyone is healthy:
That is without a doubt a much stronger defense corps. than that in Toronto. The Leafs defense has struggled immensely over the past few weeks and will continue to struggle against a high-powered Bruins’ offense.
Brandon Carlo will be a key to Boston’s defense as he has made significant improvements in his game this year.
The Maple Leafs have been rolling out this defensive lineup as of late:
This probably won’t be the defense lineup we see during game one, with Jake Gardiner, Travis Dermott, and Igor Ozhiganov probably returning from injury by that point.
The B’s have allowed the third fewest goals against with 194, the only two teams ahead of them are the Dallas Stars and New York Islanders, both of whom have a very strong defense core. The Leafs on the other hand have allowed 232 goals, sitting right in the middle of the league in that category.
It’s safe to say the Bruins have the better defensive core, which will certainly help them down the stretch.
Boston’s Goaltending Is Just As Good As Toronto’s
This could be a little bit of a stretch as Frederick Andersen has been fantastic for the Leafs this year, but overall, I think Tuukka Rask will turn it on in the playoffs. When comparing regular season stats, Rask has a .915 SV% while Andersen has a .917, Rask even has the upperhand on the GAA side of things as well.
Save percentage and goals against average don’t necessarily mean much though, and are often times a product of the team in front of the goalie. But for Andersen, he’s been rock solid despite not having a great defense in front of him.
Rask and Andersen actually have very similar playoff stats, what could be the difference maker though, is Boston’s ability to play Jaroslav Halak if Rask isn’t playing up par. Halak has been pretty good for Boston this season, he was able to step in during Rask’s absence and backstop the Bruins to some key victories. So if things are going horribly for Rask in the postseason, Halak is there.
The Bruins Finally Have All Four Lines Scoring
I feel like I’ve been waiting a century to say this, all four of Boston’s lines are scoring as of late. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron carry more than their own weight on the first line. Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci have provided solid scoring for the second line. David Pastrnak has been a floater between the top two lines, but has still provided. Charlie Coyle is becoming more comfortable on Boston’s third line, and Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner have given the fourth line an edge against their opponents.
Sure, Toronto has 275 goals for this season, but despite Boston’s lack of scoring, they’ve done much more producing as of late. The Bruins have scored 28 goals over their last five games, significantly upping their production.
If the B’s didn’t have all four lines scoring, there would be some cause for concern. Considering they can churn out their fourth line against another teams first line, I think this team will do just fine.
Home Ice Advantage
Home ice advantage is huge in this Bruins-Leafs series, it has played a key role in how things have turned out over the past few years. Both of Boston’s game seven wins against the Maple Leafs have come on home ice.
The B’s can win on the road if and when needed, but ultimately they’re more comfortable at home. If Toronto ends up with home ice advantage, we may see them pull off a game seven victory over the Bruins.
It seems more likely that the Bruins will get home ice advantage though, as they have 103 points and need 107 points to clinch home ice. They need two more wins and at least a point through their final five games in order to clinch.
If the Bruins get home ice advantage again, the Leafs are in trouble.