Bruins: Expect the unexpected against Maple Leafs
If you’re not sure what to expect from the Bruins-Maple Leafs series, you are not alone. The Original Six and Northeast Division rivals are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1974 and Toronto is making its first trip to the postseason since 2004. The only given is that with their Stanley Cup run two years ago and most of the same cast back, the B’s have way more playoff experience than the Leafs. Boston was 28-14-6 in the regular season and Toronto was 26-17-5 which is why the B’s got the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Maple Leafs earned the No. 5 seed. For what it’s worth, the Bruins went 3-1-0 against the Leafs in the regular season: a 1-0 win Feb. 2 at Toronto, 4-2 win March 7 vs. Toronto, a 3-2 loss at Toronto on March 23 and 3-2 shootout win vs. Toronto on March 25.
The obvious storyline focuses on Bruins right wing Phil Kessel (20 goals, 32 assists) returning to face the team that traded him for what ended up being right wing Tyler Seguin (16 goals, 16 assists) and rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton (5 goals, 11 assists). Bigger picture, that’s what people will focus on but the playoffs are all about the unexpected role players stepping up and making the big plays. In goal, the Bruins have a noticeable edge with Tuukka Rask (19-10-5, 2.00 GAA, .929 save percentage) vs. James Reimer (19-8-5, 2.46 GAA, .924 save percentage), who will be playing his first postseason game on Wednesday (7 p.m., NESN) in Game 1 of the series.The Maple Leafs aren’t a one-man team on offense though, with center Nazem Kadri (18 goals, 26 assists) and UNH product James van Riemsdyk (18 goals, 14 assists) also having had big seasons in 2013. The Bruins were led by Brad Marchand (18 goals, 18 assists), David Krejci (10 goals, 23 assists) and Patrice Bergeron (10 goals, 22 assists) along with Seguin. The key for the B’s is that they need to find a way to put the puck in the net with more regularity. In their last nine games of the regular season, they scored a grand total of 18 goals. If their offense is that weak in the playoffs, it really won’t matter what Rask and their defensemen do since that margin for error is way too thin to survive for more than a round or two.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate