It seems like the majority of Bruins fans are entering this first-round series against Toronto with a confidence that is bordering on arrogance. It’s hard to blame fans for being confident, given the way the Bruins played the Leafs this season and the way recent playoff series between the two have gone.
If you’re not among that confident group and you’re looking for reasons to be confident, we’ve got you covered!
1. The Bruins’ top line is still the best line in this series.
You win with the best players, right?
While the Leafs certainly upgraded their lineup with the addition of John Tavares, they’re still unable to match the single-line, across-the-board talent offered by the line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
A first line that features Tavares and Mitch Marner is great, but Zach Hyman isn’t as good a player as his other two linemates.
The Leafs had no answer for the Bruins’ first line for the majority of this season. There’s little reason to expect that to change as we head into the postseason.
2. The Leafs aren’t exactly defensive dynamos.
Teams that put defense on the back burner while loading up on offensive firepower seem to frequently run into problems in the postseason. It’s hard to find a scientific reason as to why, but it’s not a big leap to suggest that a team can learn to exploit an opponent’s shortcomings over the course of a series.
There’s no denying that the Leafs are in possession of one of the league’s most dangerous offenses; they didn’t finish with 286 goals (fourth-best in the league) by accident.
However, they still have some question marks on the defensive side of the puck, both in terms of their blue line and in terms of the responsible play of their forwards, and Shawn’s series did a good job pointing out ways the Bruins could be able to exploit the Leafs.
Toronto gave up 3.03 goals per game this season, 12th-worst in the league. The B’s put up 16 goals in four games against the Leafs this regular season. There’s little to suggest that the Leafs will be able to button up in the postseason.
3. All hail the magic intangibles!
The Leafs aren’t exactly icing a group of grizzled playoff veterans. Patrick Marleau has been around the playoff block a time or two, while guys like Jake Muzzin and John Tavares have solid experience as well.
Beyond that, there isn’t much. And when you’re a fairly young team playing for a franchise that has found a way to lose (in excruciating ways) to the Bruins when it counted, at some point, the doubts may creep in.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have been here plenty of times before. They still have a number of holdovers from the 2011 Cup run and from the 2013 shortfall. Throw in last season’s Game 7 comeback against the Leafs, and you have to think they can handle whatever comes their way.
Of course, it’s silly to suggest that INTANGIBLES are going to be the deciding factor in this series. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will be the one to win the series, experience be damned.
But if we get late into this series and that snowball starts rolling downhill toward the Leafs again, those same intangibles will be on the Bruins’ side.
What did I miss? Anything else jump out at you as a clear advantage for the Bruins?