Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Jan 20, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) celebrates with center Pavel Zacha (18) after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The newest installment of the Bruins-Maple Leafs playoff rivalry will formally get underway Saturday night at TD Garden.

And by now, there’s no secrets when it comes to these teams and how they feel about one another.

The latest chapter of the rivalry is headlined by the power-on-power matchup of David Pastrnak and the Leafs’ Auston Matthews, of course, but as is the case with any playoff series, this one is bound to go deeper than that.

  • In what will be their fourth playoff series since 2013, there’s no denying that the names and faces have changed a bit. In Boston’s corner, there’s no longer a No. 37, No. 46, or even a No. 33 on the Boston roster like there was the last time these teams linked up in postseason play back in 2019. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Zdeno Chara have all retired, and are now seen in commercials, running marathons, or simply living it up versus being seen tearing up Leaf hearts on the ice.

    And in the case of Toronto, they may very well no longer be the ‘little brother’ the Bruins were used to beating up on, as players such as Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner all have playoff series victories under their belt these days.

    Let’s take a look at four Bruins skaters to keep your eye on when this series gets underway…

  • Pavel Zacha

    Dec 27, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Boston Bruins center Pavel Zacha (18) waits for the face-off during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 27, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Boston Bruins center Pavel Zacha (18) waits for the face-off during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    If this series is bound to play out like we expect, Charlie Coyle is going to have his hands full with an Auston Matthews matchup for the majority of the series. Or at least for the start of it. And given the expected defensive-zone responsibilities that’ll come with that matchup for Coyle, this is a series where the Bruins will need Pavel Zacha to come through and truly be the go-to offensive center for the Black and Gold.

    Zacha did end the year on a high note, with a team-leading four goals and 12 points over the final 10 games of the regular season. Zacha had four multi-point outings over that span, and was on a definite heater from a faceoff standpoint, with a 55.3 percent success rate at the dot, which was 12th-best among 41 centers with at least 150 faceoffs over that span.

    The 27-year-old Zacha also had a strong 2023-24 showing against Toronto, with a team-leading three goals and four points over the four-game season series sweep for the Bruins.

  • Hampus Lindholm

    Nov 25, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm (27) looks to pass against the New York Rangers during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 25, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm (27) looks to pass against the New York Rangers during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    Even if the Bruins decide to stick with a Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy ‘super pairing’ at the top of their defensive depth chart, this is going to be a big series for Lindholm.

    Through two postseasons in Boston, Lindholm’s playoff grade is an incomplete at best. His 2022 series was interrupted by a devastating-looking concussion on a hit from the Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov, and he played the majority of his 2023 series against the Panthers on a broken foot. But by all accounts, Lindholm is healthy entering the postseason, and will be leaned on as the Black and Gold’s go-to defenseman on the left side.

    And given the way that Montgomery tinkers with his pairings in game —  as well as the current left-side depth chart featuring Matt Grzelcyk and the right-shooting Kevin Shattenkirk — Lindholm’s workload is going to be a massive one, with blends galore that could see Lindholm skate with McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Andrew Peeke at various points.

    Lindholm is coming into the postseason with two goals and 19 blocks over his last 10 games.

  • Jake DeBrusk

    Nov 30, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) skates after the puck during the first period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 30, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) skates after the puck during the first period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    With a 0-0-0 stat line in nine of his final 10 games of the regular season, the hope here has to be that Jake DeBrusk has gotten his final cold streak of the year out of his system and is ready to once again become ‘Playoff Jake’ for the Black and Gold. And against an opponent he’s absolutely used to torching this time of year.

    Beyond the obvious of DeBrusk’s success against the Maple Leafs (two goals and six points in four meetings this season), there should be some comfort in the fact that DeBrusk has had two solid postseasons in a row now, with two goals and four points in seven games against the stingy Hurricanes in 2022 and a six-point series against the Panthers a year ago.

    This is also a series that should play to DeBrusk’s strengths in the sense that he should get plenty of second and third-chance opportunities against this Toronto defense and goaltending duo.

  • Trent Frederic

    Nov 9, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Trent Frederic (11) reacts after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 9, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Trent Frederic (11) reacts after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    After scoring what was a career-high 17 goals and 31 points a year ago, the Bruins’ Trent Frederic elevated his game even higher this past season, with 18 goals and 40 points in 82 games for the Bruins.

    But for as strong as Frederic has looked in these regular seasons, postseason success is still on Frederic’s to-do list, as he comes into the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs with zero goals and zero assists in nine career playoff appearances.

    “Yeah, most of the time the thing we talk about with Trent [Frederic] is to play with pace and emotion, and the rest of the game seems to follow suit,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said of Frederic in his pre-series availability. “The playoffs should lend to that if he can channel those energies and get to the interior ice. I think it’s an area that he himself can do a better job of now that he has more experience having gone through those things. We’re excited about the progression that Trent has shown the last two seasons, and hopefully that translates starting Saturday.”

    Similar to DeBrusk, this should be a series that allows Frederic to shine from a chance-generation standpoint. But it’s on Frederic, who finished the year with just one goal in his final 17 appearances, to get it firing again.

    And the B’s will be smiling ear to ear whenever they see No. 11 find the back of the net, as it’s typically been a sign of a victory, with the Bruins holding a 35-2-3 record over the last four seasons when Frederic scores at least one goal.

  • (Click here to subscribe to the Sports Hub Underground podcast.)

    It’s almost time for some Boston Bruins playoff hockey. We’re getting you ready with a full preview of Bruins-Maple Leafs on this episode of the Sports Hub Underground.

    (0:50) Initial thoughts on the Bruins’ return to the playoffs and their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    (16:39) The debate between who would’ve been the better matchup for the Bruins between Toronto and Tampa.

    (25:18) Why Toronto presents more of a challenge for the Bruins in the playoffs than you may think.

    (33:37) Breaking down the Auston Matthews matchup and how the Bruins might deploy their forwards and defense against him in the series.

    (43:15) What is the Bruins’ plan with the goaltenders?

    (54:06) The guys draft their “Big 3” Jack Edwards moments.

    Subscribe to the Sports Hub Underground wherever you get your podcasts.

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