The Maple Leafs are facing an uphill climb in their first-round series with the Boston Bruins. The series is tied 2-2 but Boston has regained home-ice advantage. Here’s a look at how the two teams have fared so far, and what each team must do to advance to Round 2:
- Shots: Boston has outshot the Leafs 146-140 through four games. In shot-attempts percentage, your basic indication of how well a team is generating scoring chances, the Leafs rank eighth in the playoffs at 51.4 per cent, the Bruins ninth at 48.46. Auston Matthews is third in the playoffs with 19 shots on goal, while leading all shooters in this series with 33 shot attempts. The perceived difference from last season’s playoff series — that Boston won because it was the tougher, heavier team — has faded. The Bruins started what coach Bruce Cassidy called his “fast” lineup for their Game 2 victory, but it has not limited the Leafs in terms of shots or scoring chances.
- How Toronto advances: They do more of the same. They are faster than the Bruins and can both retrieve pucks and rush pucks successfully against their defence. Boston is strong at collapsing around their goal and closing shooting lanes. Toronto has to fight through the heavy area and capitalize more in the offensive zone.
- How Boston advances: Boston’s success so far has been based on the fact they are a heavier team than the Leafs in the traditional sense — size and hits. Both teams won games by executing their game plans and checking schemes over their opponent, and the Bruins were particularly aggressive in their Game 2 win. Their top line has been inconsistent; if it finds its groove, it’ll be a deciding factor.
Mark Zwolinski is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @markzwol