Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins: Game 64
Time: 7:00 PM
Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet, NESN
Opponent SBNation Site Preview: Stanley Cup of Chowder
Now pull your socks up.
We’re pretty familiar with these guys by now. The Bruins are a dynamite possession team and have arguably the best line in the NHL. The Leafs have a lot of dazzling offensive skill...but unfortunately, they’re missing their best weapon.
Toronto Maple Leafs Line Combinations
Zach Hyman - William Nylander - Connor Brown
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Mitch Marner
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Kasperi Kapanen
Leo Komarov - Dominic Moore - Josh Leivo
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott- Roman Polak
Auston Matthews is day-to-day with a shoulder injury. [breathes]
Okay. These lines are based on Kristen Shilton’s report from practice on Friday, so they are subject to change (stares at Josh Leivo’s name). Still, Mike Babcock has made clear that William Nylander is going to get some run at centre; this may be the beginning of a chance to show he should be a centre full-time next year, instead of a 1RW. If you can do it against Boston, you can do it against anybody.
Boston Bruins Line Combinations
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake Debrusk - David Krejci - Ryan Spooner
Danton Henein - Riley Nash - David Backes
Tim Schaller - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Adam McQuaid
So if you look at 5v5 adjusted CF%, the Bruins don’t have a regular player who’s a possession negative. Like, every skater in that lineup is winning the shot battle. (The Leafs’ lineup, if you’re wondering, features eleven players who are negatives, albeit mostly not by much.) The Leafs are a fantastic team at generating expected goals, but they give a lot of that benefit back on the defensive side (2nd in expected goals for, 28th in expected goals against.) The Bruins rank 13th and 4th in those numbers respectively, so they skew defensive, but they’re still respectable offensively.
Insofar as the Bruins have a weakness, it’s that they depend on their top line (and Danton Henein, who is riding a PDO wave) to generate the bulk of their offence; they have entirely respectable depth, but the Leafs have the better second line when healthy, and possibly the better third. Normally this means that if one of the Leafs’ lines can play against Bergeron’s line and fight them to a draw, the Leafs win.
Last game against the Bruins, we tried this with Auston Matthews, and to put it bluntly, he got crushed. Nazem Kadri has had some success playing heads-up against Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak in the past, and I’d expect Mike Babcock to chase that matchup tonight.
And then? Well, if Nylander is going to have a sparkling offensive showing at centre, now would be a good time.
Go Leafs Go!