The Toronto Maple Leafs lost in overtime to the Florida Panthers 7-6 Tuesday night and it has made it more apparent to me than ever that playing the Boston Bruins in the first round is the best-case scenario this season.
Tuesday we saw the Toronto Maple Leafs play a high-flying game with 13 goals. Defenses collapsed, goalies crumbled and the offense poured in. While sometimes outscoring your problems can get you the win, it is not the way to win playoff hockey.
Sure, you can talk about how it was Muzzin’s first game back, how Lybushkin was scratched, or even how Campbell had to come in midgame as replacement for Kallgren – but, that doesn’t change the fact that this is not the way to win a game in the National Hockey League.
As mentioned by the broadcast during the game, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers are mirror images of each other. Both teams have high offense, streaky goaltending, and defense that leave holes in the back end. The playstyles do not line up – at least in a way that works – and the option of the Bruins remain a much better option.
But hold on, this is a four-horse race isn’t it? Well, that is correct but we know what that fourth horse operates in the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning may not have the division locked down but don’t let that fool you, as we can see from the last two names added to Lord Stanley’s Cup, they know how to play playoff hockey. They’re going for three and don’t think the Toronto Maple Leafs will stand in their way.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Bruins in the First Round
So what makes the Leafs vs. Bruins such a good first-round matchup? Well, it’s not about who the best option is, it’s more about picking the lesser of the evils.
To me, the Panthers and Leafs scenario is just too unpredictable. Furthermore, on the other hand I don’t think there’s anyone that wants to play Tampa first round. That leaves us with the Bruins.
We know what to expect from the bruins dating back to their last playoff matchup. Except, this time the Leafs are as hard-nosed and rugged as ever.
With options upfront with Simmonds and Clifford, and then the additions of Lybushkin and Giordano on the back end, there is a higher sense of safety and toughness that we can hold in there and win a 7 game series.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have one game left against the Bruins this season however, the Leafs have already won the season series in a decisive fashion with scores of 5-2 and 6-4, and if those games were an indication of anything, it’s that the Leafs can tangle with the Bruins.
We are seeing the best season by a single Leaf in NHL history with Matthews at 54 goals (and counting). All four lines have been clicking, and on paper, we have the best defensive core we have seen in the core-four-era.
While this all remains arbitrary and worthless until the Leafs actually make it out of the first round, would you really want to see the Leafs get there against anyone else? I for one wouldn’t.
Overcoming their demons and moving on against the team that has given them so many nightmares has got to be the one right way to do it, it wouldn’t feel right against anyone else.