This was Boston’s second win in three tries against Toronto. And in the other game, the Bruins managed to get a point. So, Boston earned five out of a possible six points against the Leafs this year.
With the win, the Bruins continue to sit alone on top of the Atlantic Division with 28 points. They are three points ahead of second-place Montreal and six points ahead of Toronto. The Leafs, it’s worth noting, played two more games than Boston.
All this begs the question: why do the Bruins continue to have success against the Maple Leafs? Money talks, so look no further than each team’s salary cap construction.
First off, if we take money out of the equation, the Bruins and Leafs have similar roster structures. Both are top-heavy and rely heavily on a core group of forwards.
Boston’s top line drive play at even strength and on the power play, and Bergeron and Marchand handle penalty-killing duties. It’s safe to say the Bruins go as far as Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak take them.
Toronto isn’t that far off with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander. Those four scored 32 of Toronto’s 70 goals this season; not at the level of Boston’s group but still almost half the team’s total.
Matthews and Nylander are the only two players on the Leafs with more than five even-strength goals, and they also lead the power play. Like we see with Boston, Toronto’s hopes lie in the hands of its top forwards.
We can argue all day over which team has the better core forward group. Some will say Boston’s is more well-rounded, while others will point out Toronto’s youth. There is no argument, however, when it comes to the money.
Let’s throw David Krejci into the mix with Boston to give us an even four-on-four comparison. According to CapFriendly, Boston’s top four forwards count for a little over $26.9 million on the cap. This is roughly 33% of the $81.5 million upper limit.
How does this compare to Toronto’s top four forwards? Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Nylander count for about $40.5 million on the cap. That’s 50% of the upper limit!
So, not only do Boston’s forwards produce more than Toronto’s; they combine to cost almost $15 million less.
This cap savings has a trickle-down effect for Boston, as there’s more cap space to spend elsewhere on the roster. That’s a big reason why the Bruins, unlike the Maple Leafs, have a capable backup, strong bottom-six forwards, and a deep group of defensemen.
Money is one of the biggest factors in the Bruins-Leafs rivalry. The Bruins locked up their top players at team-friendly contracts, and they continue to reap the benefits. The Leafs, meanwhile, pay top-dollar for their guys, and consequently they struggle with team depth.
For now, this is a major reason why Toronto can’t seem to get by that Boston hurdle. And honestly, it’s unlikely things will change any time soon.