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Preview: Maple Leafs face the Bruins

Team two three takes on team one.

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs
Sad Brad in November.
Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Boston Bruins
07:00 PM at TD Garden
Watch on: NHLN, CBC, SNO, SNW, NESN

Opponent’s Site: Stanley Cup of Chowder

The Leafs last game was an away game on January 12 against the Detroit Red Wings, which Toronto lost by a score of 4-1. The Leafs have a record of 26-10-7 so far.

The Boston Bruins last played at home on January 12 against the Seattle Kraken. The Bruins lost by a score of 3-0, and their current league record is 32-5-4.

The team we love to hate the second most (sorry, Boston, you’ll never be first in our black hearts) got shut out last game, so thanks to the Kraken for pissing them off. Appreciate that.

Them

Toronto vs Boston

Toronto Stat Boston
Toronto Stat Boston
68.6 - 3rd Points % - Ranking 82.9 - 1st
3.349 - 10th Goals/Game - Ranking 3.756 - 2nd
2.605 - 3rd Goals Against/Game - Ranking 2.146 - 1st
24.3 - 9th Power Play% - Ranking 28.0 - 3rd
78.2 - 17th Penalty Kill% - Ranking 86.1 - 1st
10.5 - 12th Team Sh% - Ranking 10.9 - 7th
0.908 - 10th Team Sv% - Ranking 0.927 - 1st
William Nylander - 22 Most Goals (NST) David Pastrnak - 32
Mitchell Marner - 50 Most Points (NST) David Pastrnak - 58
Michael Bunting - 50 Most PIM (NST) Connor Clifton, A.J. Greer - 35
Morgan Rielly - 22.52 TOI Leader (NST) Hampus Lindholm - 23.74

The Bruins are good at everything. That’s the simple truth. Yes, it is also true that Linus Ullmark is having a piping-hot season, unlikely to ever be repeated. He doesn’t need to repeat it, though, he just needs to be better than average for the second half of the season. Even if he took two months off, the Bruins would likely finish first in the NHL.

If there’s any weakness evident in that chart above, it’s that the offence flows through one man, while on the Leafs it flows through two guys who aren’t on the same line. But the Bruins are good at scoring, at limiting chances, special teams, and their shooting % is essentially the same as the Leafs.

This is their standard lineup, with the happily reunited David line destroying all opposition this season, giving the team two legitimate top lines. Now that Bergeron is aged and decrepit and only in the 97.7th percentile in GAR, his line isn’t as important.

Lines

Fluto Shinzawa via Daily Faceoff

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Craig Smith
Pavel Zacha - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall - Charlie Coyle - Trent Frederic
Nick Foligno - Joona Koppanen - Tomas Nosek

Matt Grzelcyk - Charlie McAvoy
Hampus Lindholm - Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort - Connor Clifton

Linus Ullmark
Jeremy Swayman

Us

Unlike the Bruins, the Leafs place in the standings has rivals, and they’ve been slipping between second and third lately as they joust with the Hurricanes for points percentage.

The Leafs have played two sloppy games at full speed this week. The mental errors have been evident, and the verdict of the eye-test is often lack of effort and the excuse of a back-to-back. I don’t buy that. I think they are playing hard, full out, top to bottom, but they are making enough mistakes to expose the weaknesses in the lineup.

The other weakness has been the lack of Auston Matthews, at the 98.4th percentile in GAR. I would expect him to play this game tonight. Word is, he was feeling ill on Thursday, or would have played that game.

You can’t not play Bobby McMann, so I expect this to be the lineup, which we’ll confirm at game time, but my guess is:

Lines

Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Calle Järnkrok - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Alex Kerfoot - David Kämpf - Pierre Engvall
Zach Aston-Reese - Pontus Holmberg - Bobby McMann

Morgan Rielly - Justin Holl
Mark Giordano - Conor Timmins
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren

Matt Murray
Ilya Samsonov

The Game

How did the Kraken shutout the Bruins? As we saw when they beat the Leafs, they’re running pretty hot right now, and they are also a team built to defend first. Offence has been their more recent refinement.

The Bruins outplayed the Kraken for two periods, and then the game opened up in the third with total domination in shots by the Bruins and total domination in quality by the Kraken. A pretty classic pattern when the score is 2-0 heading into the third.

Martin Jones pulled an Ullmark on Ullmark.

Can the Leafs do that? Well, sure they can get outshot and have a hero goalie performance. I don’t really recommend it as plan A, though.

The Leafs need to stay out of the penalty box, something they are only average at this season, and they need to play with their brains switched to the on position and their emotions cooled down. The Bruins spend a lot of time on special teams, and they’re the Bruins, so that’s a big ask, but nonetheless, you can’t out rat the king rat, and you can’t beat the Bruins with a power play duel.

Look up the odds the Leafs win in all your favourite locations (no not some sportsbook, those aren’t win probabilities) but remember, this is hockey, and weird is always on the menu.

Go Leafs Go.