For the first time in nine seasons the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves back in the playoffs. It’s great that the Leafs have ended their long playoff drought but the question becomes how long can they last against the Boston Bruins, who have had their number as of late?
While the Bruins have won 9 of the last 10 meetings between these two original 6 rivals, the playoffs are a whole different ball game. While some Leafs fans’ are ready to write their team off before the puck even drops on the series, the panel here at Sabre Noise has a different story to tell.
Everyone on the panel agrees on what the Leafs need to do in order to find success. Find a way for Phil Kessel to be successful and don’t try and beat the Bruins at their own game. As Cory points out the Leafs will undoubtedly throw out Colton Orr and Mark Fraser to mix things up with the Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton. But that isn’t the best idea for the Leafs. Although they’ve become a much tougher team this season and don’t back down from anyone, they can’t beat the Bruins physically. If the Leafs try to act tough and “poke the bear” this series will be done in a hurry.
Caitlin points out that Kessel, despite only being in the playoffs twice before, is a proven playoff performer. He has 15 points in 15 games making him a point-per-game player, you can’t ask for much more than that in the playoffs! Kessel has been great this year but he only has 3 goals in 22 games against the Bruins. He’ll need to defeat the “Bruin demons” that seem to haunt Kessel.
Andrew points out that in addition to Kessel, the Leafs young guns will need to have a huge series. Nazem Kadri and James Van Reimsdyke will need to step up, especially if Kessel gets shut down.
The Bruins are in a completely different situation than the Leafs. The Bruins have all the pressure to win this season and will be looking to ride the emotion of the city. The Bruins will need to keep playing their physical brand of hockey. As Andrew points out the Bruins are a “win by committee” team. They don’t have many flashy players, they win hockey games by sticking together. If you mess with one of them you mess with them all.
The biggest aspect in this series will be the physicality. The Bruins undoubtedly hold the advantage in that department, but if the Leafs can stick to their game-plan and not role over they stand a chance.
The Panel is split on this series. Both Caitlin and Cory believe the Bruins will come out on top, but Cory expects them to get the clean sweep, while Caitlin expects the Leafs to win 2 games. Andrew on the other hand believes the Leafs will win in 7 games as long as Phil Kessel performs as expected.