Ex-Bruins head coach reveals how the Leafs can beat Boston in Round 1

Ryan Smitheram
April 18, 2024  (6:32 PM)

Former Bruins coach reveals how the Leafs can beat them in round one
Photo credit: USA Today

Former Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien revealed what the Leafs have to do to win their first-round series against the Bruins.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have not defeated the Boston Bruins in a playoff series since 1959, but over the last ten years, they have had three opportunities to do so. We all remember the infamous Game 7 collapse from 2013 as it still haunts everyone to this day. They also lost in seven games to the Bruins in 2018 and 2019.
Many believed the Leafs would take on the Florida Panthers in round one, but after a Panthers' win Tuesday night over the Leafs and a Bruins loss to the Ottawa Senators, the two top teams in the Atlantic Division switched positions in the standings leading to another installment of the Original Six matchup.

Former Bruins coach Claude Julien thinks the Leafs have a chance to beat the Bruins, but they'll have to change their play style a bit in order to do so

The head coach of the 2013 Bruins team that scored four unanswered goals in the third period and overtime of Game 7, Claude Julien was a guest on "Leafs Morning Take" today and he was asked how he would game plan if he was coaching the Leafs.
"We all know, it's pretty obvious to everybody, the Bruins have great goaltending and have two that are really good. Their backend is really strong and so is their defensive game. Their defensive structure is very strong so where I think the Leafs have an advantage is definitely on the offensive side of things where they can score a lot more. I think the Bruins maybe lack a little bit of depth in the scoring area so can the Leafs take advantage of trying to get to those dirty areas. Are they going to get to that net front? That means they are going to have to take some punishment, it's not going to be easy, but if they play on the outside, they don't have a chance of winning this series. It's about wanting to get your nose dirty - blocking shots, taking a hit to make a play. There's a team there that doesn't give much so you're going to have to create and make those things happen. A lot of it will not just be by skill alone, it will be by commitment and dedication and wanting to go to those areas."

Without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci down the middle, the Bruins are lacking the elite defensive forwards, and in some instances, offensive threats that they have had in their previous matchups. That doesn't mean they can't match up against the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares, but it makes things a little more difficult. As Julien pointed out, the Bruins' blueline and goaltending is superior to the Leafs' but if the Leafs are able to neutralize or minimalize the impact of David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, the Bruins don't have nearly as much secondary firepower as they once did.
This issue with the Leafs, as we have seen in the past, is their inability to create scoring opportunities in tight, and if they don't do that, as Julien explained, the Bruins will have the advantage. The proposed strategy from Julien is the exact reason why Leafs GM Brad Treliving signed Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi in the off-season. Both of them thrive in those areas and are able to produce in the playoffs from in tight.
Last postseason, ironically with the Bruins, Bertuzzi had 5 goals and 10 points in 7 games, while Domi had 3 goals and 13 points in 19 games with the Dallas Stars. The addition of those two, along with Ryan Reaves, even in his limited ice-time, will help create space and opportunity in those dirty areas, while the additions of Ilya Lyubushkin and Joel Edmundson will help make life more difficult for the Bruins in the same areas. However, it will come down to how willing Marner and Nylander are to go to those areas, as we know Matthews and Tavares aren't shy about battling in front or along the wall for loose pucks.
With another day before the first round begins on Saturday, Leafs' head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted he is already deep into his pre-scouting as he was doing some between periods in Wednesday's loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. That being said, Keefe can come up with all the game plans he wants, but it is up to the players to properly execute them - something that has been an issue in the past.
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Ex-Bruins head coach reveals how the Leafs can beat Boston in Round 1

Which Leaf do you think will have the best series against Boston?

Auston Matthews26648.9 %
Mitch Marner10819.9 %
John Tavares8114.9 %
William Nylander8916.4 %
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