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Bridging the gap: What we might expect as Round 1 of Boston v. Toronto progresses to Game 2

Boston controlled the latter portions of this game, and it frustrated the Leafs. Here’s an idea of how we might see it done again.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy looked like a veteran in his return to playoff hockey.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The predictions set in front of us before Game 1 were along the lines of ‘tight-checking’, ‘close matchup’, ‘heavy-hitting’; we came to find that only that last one really rang true. No takes predicted ‘Bruins will blow out Toronto by killing penalties and capitalizing on power plays.’ Who was expecting it? Really? OK, Nostradamus.

What did we see, and how is it going to impact tonight’s game?

Line matching

As play settled, things started to take shape - and it wasn’t quite what we might have expected. While Zdeno Chara was certainly deployed often against Auston Matthews (about 90% of the time), it wasn’t for full durations of Matthews’ shifts - Chara played almost 20 minutes, but was on the ice for only 11 of Matthews’ 15:24 TOI. Matthews, along with Zach Hyman and William Nylander, were deployed as expected against the Bergeron line, but the rest of the matching between Cassidy and Babcock gets a little blurry. Krejci and his wingers had to deal with Tyler Bozak’s line, while Bruce Cassidy tried to pit Heinen-Acciari-Backes against Toronto’s fourth unit. Acciari also saw the Kadri line, though a large chunk of that was on Toronto power plays.

Basically, Bruce Cassidy was as effective as Mike Babcock in gaining advantageous matchups, if not better. Home-ice advantage has its... advantages.

Big props to for probably my favorite tool for game tracking.

Physical Play

The game started out as a high-energy game. David Backes, Zdeno Chara, Rick Nash, and even Danton Heinen (doing his Papa Backes impression) got very involved against the boards. The first period was hotly contested and, after the first few minutes of adrenaline waned, the game evolved into what most of us expected: minimal neutral zone space and little time to make a play for both teams.

Bruce Cassidy said it best after Game 1: “We wanted to play with pace. I thought we did early and allowed us to get behind their D. I think puck management was a point of emphasis for us as much as anything against a fast-break team that can score quickly. So, that was our goal, and physicality goes along with that. It’s there, take it, don’t chase it.”

Boston played their game, and did a great job of not falling for Toronto’s effort to rile the Bruins into retaliation. Sticking to the game plan will be key to this in Game 2, especially as Toronto tries to compensate for the absence of one of their most irritating players in Kadri.

Special Teams

Boston had the clear upper hand in Game 1, even with Chara in the box. When Chara isn’t in the box, he’s playing nearly all of the PK time, logging 1:34 of the first penalty and the entire 2 minutes in the second, playing a monster 2:24 shift in total. With help from Adam McQuaid (when you’re done here, give a read to Matt Kalman at CBS as he lays out McQuaid’s value) and Kevan Miller on the back end (and a pinch of Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug at the end for their stretch-pass ability at the end of the kill), and multiple sets of quality defensive forwards (Bergeron-Marchand for sure, with stints from Acciari-Tim Schaller and Sean Kuraly - Tommy Wingels), the Bruins should continue to have the Toronto power play’s number.

With the advantage, well... a one-line team this is not. If Toronto takes several penalties tonight, they’ll likely see the same result.


The Bruins still have home-ice advantage, giving Cassidy the opportunity to match up to his heart’s desire on faceoffs. He was mostly effective in these efforts, though Babcock did get Matthews some opportunities against Boston’s fourth line.

Toronto has an uphill battle, but let’s bear in mind that this is still just Game 2 of the series and it IS the Stanley Cup Playoffs.