Leafs' track record against Boston this season raising concerns

Mike Armenti
April 17, 2024  (12:32)

Auston Matthews communicating with Tyler Bertuzzi at practice
Photo credit: Sportsnet

The Boston Bruins are winners of their last 6 consecutive playoff matchups against the Toronto Maple Leafs, so when the Leafs lost to Florida last night, securing a first round matchup with the Bruins, naturally, there was some immediate concern.

Following the Leafs' 5-2 loss to the Panthers on Tuesday, Sportsnet's Luke Fox shared a graphic revealing the Leafs' regular season record and a collection of stats that don't paint a pretty picture about the matchup for the Leafs. The Leafs went 0-2-2 against the Bruins this season, losing all 4 meetings. They were outscored 14-7 in the season series, posted a brutal 9.1 power play percentage to Boston's 30% and lost the goaltending battle handily, posting a .891 SV% to Boston's .949 SV%.
While it doesn't exactly provide a lot of confidence in the Leafs, it's important to note that the playoffs are a whole different animal. The margins for error are smaller and the games are a lot more physical. It is for these reasons and countless more that we shouldn't be too quick to write anyone off based on their regular season record against their first round opponent.
Last season, the Maple Leafs went 3-0-1 against the Florida Panthers. Those regular season triumphs weren't enough to pacify the Panthers in the postseason.
Stemming back to 2020-21, the Leafs trampled all over the Montreal Canadiens in the North Division, going 7-2-1 against their Atlantic Division rival. Even with the strong regular season numbers, it didn't stop the Leafs from losing a 7-game series to Montreal after taking a 3-1 series lead. Point in case, the regular season doesn't factor in when it comes to playoff success.
The Maple Leafs, as they are currently constructed, are a lot different than any previous Leafs team that Boston has faced. Both teams are different teams, actually - right from the coaching staff down to the on-ice product. Yes, some of the pieces are the same, like Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly, but the situations are different.
The Leafs are a team on the rise, arguably at the peak of their contention window. The Bruins are a team looking to squeeze the last good years out of new captain Brad Marchand. Not only that, but this Leafs team is built with the playoffs in mind, whereas previous teams, stemming back to their last series against one another in 2019, were built more for getting to the playoffs rather than succeeding there.
The truth is that nobody really knows what's going to happen in this first round series. People may claim that they've read this book before or seen this movie before, but this iteration of the Leafs is not Kyle Dubas' version of the team. It's Brad Treliving's. Yes, the core players are the same, but the complementary pieces are different, as is the system and the game plan.
Sheldon Keefe has made progress with this group whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Last year's 1st round series win against Tampa was a huge step in the right direction. It was valuable experience for this group, just like their second round loss against Florida was valuable experience. Now they know what it takes to get past Round 1 and what they will need to do to go beyond that.
The Leafs also have the added motivation of having a new boss at MLSE in Keith Pelley, who has already established that he's looking for success from this group. If they don't show that they can be successful, Pelley has already confirmed that he's not afraid to make some big changes. Obviously, with John Tavares and Mitch Marner coming due for new contracts fairly imminently, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that these next two playoff runs are vitally important if this group wants to remain together.
Different year, different teams, different scenario, and hopefully, different results. The playoff schedule should be announced imminently, but with the playoffs kicking off on Saturday night, I think we should likely anticipate the Leafs and Bruins to be the marquee matchup on night one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Hockey Night in Canada.
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Leafs' track record against Boston this season raising concerns

Who will finish the Bruins/Leafs series with more goals?

Auston Matthews23362 %
David Pastrnak14338 %
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