Leafs and Bruins meet in the 1st round for the 1st time since 2019
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Prominent NHL Insider reveals why he likes the Leafs over the Bruins

Published April 19, 2024 at 12:15

Elliotte Friedman discussed why he believes the Toronto Maple Leafs have a favourable matchup against the Boston Bruins on the latest '32 Thoughts' podcast.

The Maple Leafs and Bruins will face off in the first round again in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs in what many Leaf fans believe will be a much better experience than their 2013 first round series, 2018 first round series and 2019 first round series, where the Bruins dispatched the Leafs each time.

Heading into Game 1 on Saturday, the Leafs are limping into the playoffs losers of four straight games and dealing with a handful of injuries, while the Bruins have lost three of their last four, including their final two games of the regular season. On the latest episode of '32 Thoughts', Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed the opening round series where Friedman mentioned that many of his friends in Toronto believe the Bruins purposely lost their last two games to play the Leafs instead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He also discussed why he believes the Leafs are better suited for a series against the Bruins instead of the Panthers.

Where does Friedman believe the Leafs will struggle and succeed in the series?

To begin the series breakdown, Friedman discussed where the Leafs ran into trouble against the Bruins this season leading them to go 0-2-2 in the season series.

"The thing that Boston does really well and they've done it really well against Toronto this year is forecheck. They forecheck extremely well and they've given Toronto a lot of trouble with it. If Toronto doesn't solve that problem in the playoffs like they couldn't in the regular season then they are in really big trouble. I do think the other area, they have not had a good powerplay this year - the Maple Leafs - and Boston could pick it apart. Pastrnak tortures the Maple Leafs and if they don't get their penalty kill better, they could be in trouble," revealed Friedman.

He isn't wrong in stating that Pastrnak tortures the Leafs. In 28 regular season games in his career, he has 19 goals and 36 points against the blue and white. He also has 19 points in 14 playoff games versus the Leafs.

Further into their discussion about the series, Friedman believes that the Leafs will be able to "out Bruin the Bruins" physically, thanks to the additions that GM Brad Treliving has made since taking over for Kyle Dubas. He also explained the Leafs' thought process in having Martin Jones play in their season finale Wednesday night instead of Samsonov.

"The other thing I think about the Leafs is this: I really like the way that guys like McCabe, Edmundson, Bertuzzi and Domi, who was hurt, went down the stretch. I think they are the team that can dictate physicality more than the Bruins will, which seems weird to say. I think the Leafs have really overachieved this year. They used 13 defensemen, 4 goalies, they had a lot of excuses to fall apart this year, they never did. For me, the question is, Boston can play two goalies and nobody is going to panic. If Toronto is playing two goalies, that's probably a pretty bad thing. One guy is going to have to grab the net and hold onto it. I was surprised that Samsonov didn't play on Wednesday, they went to Martin Jones and someone pointed out to me, Samsonov with a week off or two weeks off when he rediscovered his game, it worked out well for him. I can buy that thinking."

In their playoff careers, we have yet to see Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner or William Nylander really show up when it matters in elimination games, although they have been consistent and produced in the playoffs. The production has not come at times when it is needed most and they are criticized for it. Maybe this is the year we finally see Matthews go "beast mode" in a series, or Marner finally shake the yips he has shown in the past. The Leafs have the ability to outscore their opponents at will, but as former Bruins coach Claude Julien said, they will have to commit to playing a tougher game. On top of the stars performing, Treliving brought in Domi and Bertuzzi for the exact reason Julien mentioned. Both thrive in those dirty areas and types of games and the hope is that they will take some of the pressure off of the Leafs' stars.

As Friedman touched on, the Leafs will need Samsonov to revert to the form he had when he first returned from his stint away from the team in January, which is why he believes the Leafs chose to keep him away from game action the final week of the season. If he can return to form and the Leafs get the timely scoring they have needed in the playoffs for years, there is no reason that they can't get past the first round for the second year in a row.
April 19   |   513 answers
Prominent NHL Insider reveals why he likes the Leafs over the Bruins

Who do you think will finish the playoffs in net for the Maple Leafs?

Joseph Woll18736.5 %
Ilya Samsonov25048.7 %
Martin Jones346.6 %
Matt Murray428.2 %
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