The Boston Bruins just barely missed out on the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs after their loss to the Panthers on Sunday. This sets up an opening round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team that was lined up as the Bruins' opponent for much of the regular season.
One thing that will jump out at you immediately about the Leafs is their depth of offensive talent. Goal leader James van Riemsdyk is likely on the third line, while their top-6 is loaded with scoring threats. Auston Matthews (34 goals, 63 points in 62 games), Nazem Kadri (32 goals), Mitch Marner (69 points), and William Nylander (61 points) could present problems up front. Their defensemen, particularly Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner, are also known for their skating and offensive ability.
But by the same token, the Leafs' defensive capabilities simply don't measure up to their offense. Despite Mike Babcock's efforts to get them to play a better three-zone game, Toronto's blue liners can be vulnerable when the Bruins are on the attack. So you can expect the style of play in the series to be fast and loose for much of the time. -- Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Here's the full schedule for the series. Dates, times, and TV networks for the first four games are below. Info for Games 5-7, if necessary, will be announced at a later time.
And of course, you can be sure to hear the entire series on 98.5 The Sports Hub, starting with pre-game coverage prior to the opening faceoff.
Game 1: Thursday, April 12, 7pm / NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Game 2: Saturday, April 14, 8pm / NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Game 3: Monday, April 16, 7pm / CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Game 4: Thursday, April 19, 7pm / CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Game 5: Saturday, April 21, 8pm / NBCSN
Game 6 (if necessary): Monday, April 23, TBD
Game 7 (if necessary): Wednesday, April 25, TBD
We'll be sure to update you if the schedule changes.
Bruins: 50-20-12, 112 points, second in Atlantic
Maple Leafs: 49-26-7, 105 points, third in Atlantic
Season series winner: Maple Leafs, 3-1 (one OT win)
Bruins Team Leaders
Goals: David Pastrnak, 35
Assists: Brad Marchand, 51
Points: Brad Marchand, 85
Avg. Ice Time: Zdeno Chara, 22:54
Power Play Points: David Pastrnak, 26 (13 goals, 13 assists)
Maple Leafs Team Leaders
Goals: James van Riemsdyk, 36
Assists: (tie) Mitch Marner and Jake Gardiner, 47
Points: Mitch Marner, 69
Avg. Ice Time: Jake Gardiner, 22:32
Power Play Points: Mitch Marner, 27 (eight goals, 19 assists)
Here's how each projected starter in goal, Tuukka Rask for the Bruins and Frederik Andersen for the Leafs, stacked up in the regular season:
Tuukka Rask: 34-14-5, 2.36 goals against avg., .917 save pct.
Frederik Andersen: 38-21-5, 2.81 goals against avg., .918 save pct.
Andersen finished with a 2.68 GAA and .915 save percentage in the Leafs' six-game loss to the Washington Capitals in last year's opening round. Rask, meanwhile, posted a 2.24 GAA and .920 save percentage in six games against the Senators.
Bruins' Projected Lines
Here's how the Bruins' line combinations could shake out in the series, provided that Rick Nash (concussion) and Riley Nash (head) are both returning in Game 1. The likelihood is that the Bruins' usual top-9 forwards slot in as they did for most of the regular season. The fourth line could be up in the air if Sean Kuraly (lower-body) is cleared to return.
Marchand -- Bergeron -- Pastrnak
DeBrusk -- Krejci -- Rick Nash
Heinen -- Riley Nash -- Backes
Schaller -- Kuraly/Donato -- Acciari
Chara -- McAvoy
Grzelcyk -- Miller
Krug -- McQuaid
With this lineup, you scratch one of Kuraly and Donato, plus forwards Brian Gionta and Tommy Wingels, and defenseman Nick Holden.
Rookie Ryan Donato has played well enough to stay competitive for a spot in the lineup, and could even see time at his natural position of center. But Cassidy, as he has from game-to-game and even during games, is likely to shuffle these lines around as he sees fit.
Maple Leafs' Projected Lines
Here's how Toronto projects to roll its lines in Game 1 on Thursday, based on their most recent combinations:
Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander
Patrick Marleau -- Nazem Kadri -- Mitchell Marner
James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Connor Brown
Leo Komarov -- Tomas Plekanec -- Kasperi Kapanen
Morgan Rielly -- Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner -- Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott -- Roman Polak