Peoples of all places east of the Berkshires and north of 95,
Please, be seated.
FOR THIS IS.
Just the Facts
Who: The Boston Bruins host the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first game of the first round of the newest Stanley Cup Playoffs you’ve ever SEEN.
What: Curling. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING?!
When: 7:00 PM
Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA
How to watch: NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NESN
Rival SBN site: Pension Plan Puppets
Know your Enemy
- Everyone has zero points.
- The goalies have zero saves.
- IT IS THE PLAYOFFS.
If you think back to the five-games-to-go mark, it seems almost inevitable that these two teams would face off in a playoff series.
In the immediate but still regular-season past, Boston lost to the not-playoff-bound Florida Panthers, while Toronto defeated the Bruins’ archrival, the Montreal Canadiens. They joined Florida on the golf course moments later.
Much has been said about how these teams will match up, and to a T, their playing styles clash well head-to-head. A run-and-gun offense (‘unstoppable force’, aka Toronto) will meet a more defensively stout (‘immovable object’, aka Boston), and in the spirit of playoff hockey, the games we’ll see will likely be very evenly-matched. Should it be?
While we may have to put the NHL regular season in the rearview, what we do have is season-long statistical models YAAAAYYYYY!!1!
Boston has ten active forwards above the ‘break-even’ mark for possession stats, meaning that more forwards on the Bruins help to drive play towards the opponent’s goal than forwards who don’t. Tim Schaller and Sean Kuraly, not your typical top-nine forwards, are 8th and 9th, but who’s tenth? Rick Nash! Meanwhile, Toronto has five forwards above the same mark, and two are fourth-line forwards. There’s a bit of a discrepancy there (Reference: corsica.hockey, filtered by 5v5 CF% stats)
Meanwhile, on defense... go and read Sky’s post on the matter. Couldn’t have laid it out better myself.
So, who is going to take Game 1? The truth is, we’re really not sure; for all of the differences in their respective roster construction and underlying stats, we have to keep in mind that this IS the second season. There are ample opportunities for either team to take the initial win. Game 1 will be the tone-setter for the rest of the series.
What can Boston do to take the first win of the series? The Bruins would do well to nip Toronto’s energy early by forcing any Leafs puck carrier to the boards as they leave their zone; they’d be forced to pull up and make a hurried pass, which more often result in turnovers. If Toronto can get the first pass out, it’s on the defense and the center to continue to push the puck to the wall while someone covers the centering pass. It will be difficult to manage Toronto’s center depth, with Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, and Tomas Plekanec down the middle, but if Boston can keep Toronto to the outside and neutralize their aggressive offense, the Leafs will be unable to accumulate quality scoring chances.
OK, defense counts, but Boston needs goals. What will stop them? It’s difficult to flip from tight defense to fast offense, so it’ll be up to the Bruins’ defense (and centers) to create turnovers on Toronto’s rush, forcing them to chase backwards early and often. Once they can drive Toronto deep enough into their own zone, a solo forecheck and that tight first wave of defense on the puck carrier should create a few turnovers for Boston to counter in short bursts. If they fall into Toronto’s pace, while their defense is strong, the Bruins need to keep things from getting too open and quick. It’s also encouraging that Boston has showed good patience starting breakouts, not usually giving the puck back to their opponents.
Buckle up, folks. IT’S GAME ONE DAY!!!
Regular-season success may not necessarily beget postseason success, but this was a good example of preparedness against a fast opponent. TORvBOS from February of this year.
You can also watch this, if you’re feeling particularly salty.