Let’s be real. Was there ever really a chance this series would finish in fewer than 7 games?
The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs have traded wins to get to a winner-take-all showdown in Boston on Tuesday night. The Leafs have won all the odd-number games, the Bruins took all the evens. And now, we will see yet another Game 7 battle, the third between these two teams in recent memory.
The series has been just about as even as could be through this point, and Game 7 will be no different. Will Toronto get one of the many playoff monkeys of their backs? Will Boston close out at home? Whether you will be screaming at your television Tuesday night, or just tuning in to catch some good ol’ fashioned playoff drama, here are a few keys to this dogfight of a finish.
There’s a reason lists like this always start with the guys between the pipes. And while both Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen have been sharp, Toronto’s netminder has been just a bit better than his counterpart. You could argue both goalies came into this series with similar question marks: can they steal games in the postseason? Can they carry a team through a series? Will they buckle under pressure? Andersen has done a slightly better job at silencing his naysayers, posting a 2.70 GAA and a 9.25 SV% and making some true highlight-reel stops. In a winner-takes-all game like this, the hot goalie is often the difference maker. Leafs fans are hoping that Andersen can do at least a little better than last year’s Game 7 meltdown, in which he allowed 6 goals on 35 shots.
The Power Play
Toronto may have a slight edge in net this time around, but Boston has the edge on the man advantage. In fact, it’s been the biggest key to their success in this series. Boston has converted 7 of 16 chances (44%) on the power play, including two in the first period of their Game 6 win. If Toronto has any hope of staying alive, they need to stay out of the penalty box. But let’s not forget: in their 3 losses this series, Boston is only 2 for 8 (25%) on the power play. So if Toronto’s PK can come through, they may be able to stifle a Boston team that has relied perhaps too heavily on special teams in order to win.
New year, new season. Past playoff performances technically have no bearing on what could happen in the future. Even still, Toronto fans might be looking at how the dominoes have fallen here and think “Here we go again.” Toronto and Boston have met twice before in the playoffs in the last 6 years (in 2018 and 2013), and those series are eerily similar to the one before us. Both matchups, like this current one, were in the first round and went 7 games. Both Game 7s were played in Boston, and Boston won each, including one of hockey’s most memorable collapses in 2013. Add in the fact that Toronto has not beaten Boston in the playoffs in 50 years, and you could say that history is not on the Leafs side. If you believe in that sort of stuff, anyway.
The only thing certain about this series is that it may be the most evenly matched of any in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If these teams played 100 games, it’d likely be a 50-50 split. Our own writers here were divided down the middle when it came to picking who would move on. Think you know how it’s going to go down? Let us know!