Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins: 7:00 p.m.
Watch on: TSN4, TVA, NESN (if you dare!)
Opponent’s site: Cup of Chowder
Tuukka Rask is playing his 500th game tonight. Fitting that’s it’s against the Leafs. Nothing more represents the Leafs past than that foolish trade, driven by ego and undeserved self confidence. The Bruins are the Leafs past, not their future, but it’s just a bit hard to see that yet.
David Krejci will still be out, which is good, because if the Leafs are down a player, so they need the Bruins to be missing their second most annoying centre.
Maple Leafs Lines
From last night, no expected changes, Hutchinson gets the start.
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - Alexander Kerfoot - Mitch Marner
Trevor Moore - Jason Spezza - Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov - Nick Shore - Frederik Gauthier
Morgan Rielly - Cody Ceci
Jake Muzzin - Tyson Barrie
Martin Marincin - Justin Holl
The morning skate lines from Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic:
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - Charlie Coyle - Brett Ritchie
Danton Heinen - Par Lindholm - David Backes
Anders Bjork - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
The Bruins are who they are, and if you look at that lineup objectively, it’s really clear they have a talent deficit. They’ve been struggling so far to put up quality offence, even though their Corsi and Expected Goals (error-ridden version) were the same as the Leafs until fairly recently. The Bruins have tailed off in CF% and are now in the middle of the league. The Leafs are still at 54% even after playing a couple of tough, designed to thwart their strengths teams while missing John Tavares.
The Bruins are relying more than ever on their effective defence: they take away the cross crease pass, they clog the neutral zone, and they know their coverage assignments in the defensive zone like Auston knows how to shoot. But that’s all they’ve been doing.
The formula to beat the Bruins never changes, and while it might be a little easier to produce right now, that’s relative to how hard it is when they’re at full power. Play the Bergeron line even, and score against the rest of them. The Leafs largely did that the last time, at home, with a lot of complicated (too complicated?) linematching.
Tonight, they’re going to have to get lucky to do that well on the Bruins’ home ice. Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good, and this really is one of those times. There’s no guarantee the Bruins play well, no team does all the time, and the Leafs can do better against a defensively smothering team than they did last night.
Hope for luck, expect your hopes to be dashed, and look forward to the weekend when some roster changes are coming.
Go Leafs Go!