The Bruins and Leafs kick off their postseason series tomorrow night, slightly less than a year after their first-round match-up last year ended.
Both teams made some changes over the summer, most notably the Leafs signing John Tavares. The Bruins were fairly quiet over the summer, but made some moves at the deadline, adding Marcus Johnasson and Charlie Coyle.
If you talk to Leafs fans, there’s a consensus that this year’s team is better than last year’s, and it’s hard to argue that point. Of course, you could make the same argument for the Bruins.
How does each team’s lines and defense pairings compare to what each iced in last year’s playoffs? Let’s take a look.
Note: I used our lines post from Game 7 and PPP’s from Game 6, as those were the most recent ones I could find. I then used LeftWingLock’s lines for each team. If I’m off by a player or two, please don’t sue me.
Maple Leafs Line Comparison - Line 1
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown (2018)
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner (2019)
The verdict: This year’s top line is considerably better than last year’s. In fact, it’s about as considerably better as considerably better can be. Connor Brown is no slouch, as he played well with those two guys, but yeah...this year’s is much better.
Maple Leafs Line Comparison - Line 2
Andreas Johnsson - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander (2018)
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen (2019)
The verdict: This year’s second Leafs line is better than last year’s, but the difference isn’t as dramatic. Matthews is obviously a more complete player than Kadri, but Kadri was still a dangerous offensive weapon. Kapanen is an unbelievable skate, and is an upgrade over last year’s Nylander.
Maple Leafs Line Comparison - Line 3
Patrick Marleau - Tomas Plekanec - Mitch Marner (2018)
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander (2019)
The verdict: Ehhhhh. Marleau is Marleau, maybe a tad bit slower than last year. Kadri is miles better than Sir Turtleneck, but last year’s Marner was miles better than this year’s Nylander. Granted, Nylander could come alive in the playoffs, but he still doesn’t project to be as good as Marner was. This one’s probably a wash.
Maple Leafs Line Comparison - Line 4
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Kasperi Kapanen (2018)
Trevor Moore - Frederik Gauthier - Connor Brown (2019)
The verdict: This is a weird one, but it certainly seems like this year’s fourth line is worse than last year’s. I don’t remember last year’s Leafs being deep enough to put JVR on the fourth line, but apparently they were. Bozak was a great faceoff guy, Kapenen could fly, and JVR always found the net against the Bruins. You could argue that 2018 fourth line was better at all 3 positions.
Maple Leafs Defense Comparison - Pair 1
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey (2018)
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey (2019)
The verdict: They’re the same, so...yeah. I’d actually give this a slight improvement, as Rielly is having one hell of a year.
Maple Leafs Defense Comparison - Pair 2
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev (2018)
Jake Muzzin - Nikita Zaitsev (2019)
The verdict: Eh. Muzzin is OK, and Zaitsev is still Zaitsev. This year’s pairing is probably slightly better.
Maple Leafs Defense Comparison - Pair 3
Travis Dermott - Roman Polak (2018)
Jake Gardiner - Travis Dermott (2019)
The verdict: Jake Gardiner is an upgrade over Roman Polak, so we’ll give this year’s pairing the edge.
Overall: By my very unscientific model, the Leafs have two forward lines that are better than last year’s, one that’s the same, and one that’s worse. On defense, we’ll give them upgrades across the board.
Now, for the home team!
Bruins Line Comparison - Line 1
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak (2018)
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak (2019)
The verdict: This line’s members may be the same, but we’ll call it an improvement, as all three guys are playing even better than they were last year.
Bruins Line Comparison - Line 2
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Rick Nash (2018)
Jake DeBrusk- David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman (2019)
The verdict: Rick Nash may have been playing with the lingering effects of a concussion, but he was still a pretty effective player. This is no knock on Kuhlman, who has been playing well, but this line is slightly worse.
Bruins Line Comparison - Line 3
Danton Heinen - Riley Nash - David Backes (2018)
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen (2019)
The verdict: With only one holdover from last year, it’s safe to say this line has improved. Riley Nash had a great season last year, and you could argue that this year’s third line is worse defensively. But this year’s trio should be much more capable of putting the puck in the net.
Bruins Line Comparison - Line 4
Tim Schaller - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari (2018)
Joakim Nordstrom - Noel Acciari - Chris Wagner (2019)
The verdict: Probably a push. If Sean Kuraly was in the lineup, I’d give the edge to the current fourth line. I’m not sure Joakim Nordstrom puts this year’s group over the top.
Bruins Defense Comparison - Pair 1
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy (2018)
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy (2019)
The verdict: Just about the same, right? You could argue that Chara might be a little worse, but could also argue that McAvoy is a little better. They’re as solid as a pairing as they were last year.
Bruins Defense Comparison - Pair 2
Torey Krug - Kevan Miller (2018)
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo (2019)
The verdict: Brandon Carlo has been a sneaky important loss for the Bruins during their last two playoff appearances. While Kevan Miller was solid last year, Carlo seemed to improve every month this year. His presence makes that second unit more solid.
Bruins Defense Comparison - Pair 3
Matt Grzelcyk - Adam McQuaid (2018)
Matt Grzelcyk - Steven Kampfer/Connor Clifton (2019)
The verdict: This one is close. Last year’s pair had a little more toughness, but Grzelcyk is better than he was last year. Kampfer has been better than expected, but I’d selfishly like to see Clifton play because he’s fun to watch. Give this year’s pair a slight edge.
Overall: Up front, the Bruins have two lines that are better, one that’s worse and one that’s a push. On the back-end, we’ll go with two that are better and one that’s the same.
What do you think? The Leafs are clearly deeper than they were last year. Can the Bruins match that high-end talent, or is this one going to come down to which depth line wins out?