Game Four: Toronto Maple Leafs host the Boston Bruins

Tonight’s tilt starts at 7:00 p.m. on HNIC, TVAS, NBCSN and NESN. Find your CBC stream on their website at this link.

This game feels like a pivot point where a win for Boston ties the series, while a win for Toronto gives them a commanding 3-1 lead. But another way to look at it is that the worst that can happen is a Boston win turns the remaining games into a best two out of three series and the Leafs might leave this game needing only one more win to move on to round two.

The Leafs are standing pat on lines, and I expect we’ll see some flexibility in usage with more control over matchups on the Leafs bench. Andreas Johnsson played a little with Nylander and Brown last game, and Patrick Marleau had barely more five-on-five minutes than the fourth liners in a close game.

A blow out by the Leafs that lets that fun fourth line have some minutes and gives the top nine a little rest is totally okay with me. But this series doesn’t look like it’s blow out prone. It looks like a tough contest between teams that are nearly even.

Michael Hutchinson was back last game, not sure how many people even noticed that, and he’ll be backing up again tonight.

Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen
Patrick Marleau - William Nylander - Connor Brown
Trevor Moore - Frederik Gauthier - Tyler Ennis

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Muzzin  - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Travis Dermott


Frederik Andersen
Michael Hutchinson

Boston Bruins

The Bruins had an optional skate today, and so I’m guessing on lines a little:

They had Nordstrom back in and Backes back out yesterday, so I think we can assume that will go ahead.

Forward Lines

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Noel Acciari- Chris Wagner

David Backes

Defence Pairings

Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
John Moore/Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton

Steven Kampfer


Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

It’s interesting to watch Bruce Cassidy coach in the playoffs for a second straight year. He’s a very good coach, and his emphasis on positional, defensive play works well as a continuation of the system the team had under Claude Julien (Cassidy’s is better) and also with the personnel on the team. He’s building a system around his players, not demanding his players act out a drama in his head, which I think is the difference between good coaches and coaches that look good only with the right team.

But come playoff time, Cassidy tends to fall back on guys like Backes really quickly. He’s a believer in the rock ‘em, sock ‘em style of play with at least part of his brain. He tried a fast lineup — and to be clear here, his choices are very constrained on how much speed he can add — and then he tried hitting everyone, even tasking David Pastrnak with making checking his top priority.

Good. Keep doing that. Yeah we got exactly what we all should have seen coming from Nazem Kadri, but the other thing is, the Bergeron line are already not so hot in their own end. If you tell them hitting will get them the puck back, well, you’ve taken them down another notch in effectiveness.

Whatever it is about these two teams, when they play there are two results: The Leafs either click on their timing and pass well and control the puck enough to win, or they look like they’re a pickup team that just met. Boston is an absolutely known quantity, and we know know the Leafs can beat them if Tavares can cool off the Bergeron line enough to tip the balance.

Right, and him too. He’s kind of important.

I vote for Tavares to be even better tonight than he was last game and for everyone else to feel the flow of the game like they can at the best of times.

Go Leafs Go!