Two years ago, the Bruins were on top of the hockey world, But can they do it again?
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 its 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 23rd, and a 3-2 shoot-out win vs. Toronto on March 25th.
The obvious storyline focuses on Maple Leafs 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) — as if you didn’t already notice the Bruin’s crowd chanting his name last night!
In the 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 – like Redden last night getting his first goal as a Bruin, and Horton back to his normal hard-hitting self while also making great plays like we know he can, like his sweet tip-in goal.
In goal, the Bruins have a decent 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), the latter of whom played his FIRST post-season last night in Game 1 of the series – and we all know how that ended.
The 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 continue 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 throughout 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.
That being said – here is why the bruins WILL win:
1) “Thank-you-kess-el” – this chant replaced the “Lets-go-red-sox!” as Boston’s favorite long ago. The trade that send Phil Kessel the Leaf’s way in 2009 was arguably the top transaction in Bruins history, as we acquired two of the most talented young players in the NHL in Seguin and Hamilton.
2) Recent history: The Bruins beat the Leafs THREE of four times this year. If statistics were enough to carry us through – we’d already be well on our way to the next round.
3) Boston. doesn’t. lose.: Hockey is huge in Boston, but unlike the moose-lovers, we have other sports interests. Boston has won seven pro sports titles since the year 2000 (aka the 33rd year of the Leafs now nearly five-decade-old Stanley Cup drought).
4) Lucic, Horton, Redden and Hamilton: Talent much? With two epic players returning to their full-time jobs, and with additional (and HUGE) talent on the bench, we have the skill-set, experience, and bench to continue hitting hard, peppering the Leafs goal, and ultimately getting the better of the Leafs defense.
With the Beantown luck of the Irish, this type of talent and management, and another shot to bring Stanley home to a city well on its way to repairing its wounds after the Marathon Bombings, all add up to be one of the greatest return-to-grace Cinderella stories of its time.
Here’s a video of the highlights from Game 1:
Here’s a shorter video of highlights:
Here’s a video of the scrum that broke out after the game ended:
Thanks for reading,