Maple Leafs This Week: Two Weak Foes Before Showdown With Big Bad Bruins

Maple Leafs This Week: Two Weak Foes Before Showdown With Big Bad Bruins
© USA Today

For long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fans, no team in the NHL gives them the cold sweats more than the Boston Bruins. 

Bruins Have History of Luck vs. Leafs

Besides being a more accomplished team in the playoffs by far, by comparison — considering the Leafs haven’t won a playoff round since 2004 — the Bruins were authors of one of the greatest crashes in recent playoff history — Game 7, 2013, Leafs leading 4-1 midway through the third, only to lose in overtime 5-4. 

Saturday, the two teams play in Boston, as they slug it out at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Boston is No. 1 at 32-4-4, 68 points. The Leafs are third at 25-9-7, 57 points. This one will be the Leafs’ biggest test of the season.

Two-Game Tune-Up Should be Winnable

This week, though, leading up to the big game, things are a little softer. Over the past two games, Toronto had wins over the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers. 

According to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s Proline sportsbook, 87 per cent of customers had the Leafs to beat the Red Wings Saturday night (4-1 win), and 74 per cent had them beating the Flyers (6-2 win). 

Moneypuck.com has the Wings at 5.2 per cent to win the draft lottery and select Connor Bedard, the Flyers are 5.3 per cent. The Wings and the Flyers aren’t great hockey teams.

Still, fans and bettors have had years of great regular seasons. But is this a playoff team that can win a round? Next for the Leafs — the Predators Wednesday at home. Nashville sits just out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference — ninth, one point back of Edmonton, at 19-14-6. That game is followed by the Wings again on Thursday night, in Detroit.

Today the team recalled forward Bobby McMann from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Defenceman T.J. Brodie was placed on injured reserve, although coach Sheldon Keefe indicated he didn’t think Brodie would be out of the lineup long. 

The curveball is Auston Matthews — he missed practice Tuesday and is a game-time decision for the Predators game. 

Depth Has been Big Plus

One thing about this team, maybe unlike others in recent past seasons, is roster depth. Conor Timmins will step right in next to Mark Giordano. To fill in for Matthews, does William Nylander shift to centre as McMann steps in?

Toronto is 16-3-3 when scoring the first goal of the game and is 14-3-1 when leading after one period. 

So a bit of a runway leading up to the big Bruins game. No disrespect to the Preds and Wings, but these are the games where the Leafs can make further ground – exactly what they accomplished last weekend. They need to beat up on these two teams. 

DraftKings has the Goal Line at Nashville +1.5, Leafs -1.5, and the O/U at 6. Moneyline? Nashville 2.6, the Leafs 1.53. BetRivers has the Moneyline Nashville 2.6, Leafs 1.51.

Against the Flyers, Mitch Marner extended his point streak to five games, with two goals and six assists. He and John Tavares have clicked very nicely – Tavares has scored now in three straight games.

Bettors are focusing more on what the Leafs do at the trade deadline in March, with some cap room at play, with what we all thought was a hole on the left wing side of that Tavares-Marner line. But Calle Järnkrok has tossed some cold water on that – he scored against Philly off a beautiful feed from Marner, off the right side of the net, and in that game, tied an NHL career second-best with three points. He has four points through his last two games (one goal, three assists).

We’re not suggesting Leafs' management shelves any discussions about adding a winger with playoff pedigree – Ryan O’Reilly from the St. Louis Blues for example, who will be available when he gets back from a foot injury – but Järnkrok’s play has been food for thought.

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