The Toronto Maple Leafs Must Beat the Bruins to Keep Home-Ice Hopes Alive

The Toronto Maple Leafs have climbed their way back into the picture for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their recent hot streak has also kept alive the possibility of an Atlantic Division title.

Jeremy Swayman, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak celebrate an early-season victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. A dejected Auston Matthews looks on.
Jeremy Swayman, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak celebrate an early-season victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. A dejected Auston Matthews looks on. / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

It was only a few weeks ago when the Toronto Maple Leafs were in a precarious position in the standings.

After a 5-3 loss to their provincial rival Ottawa Senators on February 10th, the Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves alternating between third place in the Atlantic Division and one of the two wild-card spots.

You might remember that as the evening of some extracurricular activity between the Leafs Morgan Rielly and the Senators Ridly Greig. That loss dropped the Leafs to seventh place in the Eastern Conference, tied in points with the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings.

The Boston Bruins were in first place in the Eastern Conference, 13 points ahead of the Leafs in the standings. To that point in the season, the Leafs were the poster boys for inconsistency. They weren't dominant in any area, save for the power play and the star performances of Auston Matthews and William Nylander.

My, how things have changed.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Must Beat the Bruins to Keep Home-Ice Hopes Alive

The Leafs responded to the Senators' loss by reeling off a season-high seven-game winning streak. After a blip against the defending Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, the Leafs then won two in a row against the Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers.

That hot streak has allowed the Leafs to get a bit of distance between the chasing wild-card pack that includes the Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and those in the Metropolitan Division.

The Leafs shootout win against the Rangers took them to fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Now, the Bruins are only six points ahead of them, and the Leafs hold two games in hand.

The Leafs still trail the Panthers by eight points in the Atlantic, but also have a game in hand.

Mitch Marner has enjoyed his best individual streak of the season to join Matthews and Nylander in leading the Leafs. While winning nine of their last ten games, they have scored 48 goals and gave up only 28.

That burst of offense has seen the Leafs vault to the top of the league in average goals-per-game with 3.65.

The Time Is Now For the Leafs To Move Up in the Standings

On top of their offense clicking, the Leafs are getting some scoring from their depth players. Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and Bobby McMann have been regular contributors.

The hot play of Ilya Samsonov has been buoyed by the successful return of Joseph Woll against the Coyotes. As a team, the Leafs are playing their best hockey of the season.

The Bruins are not. They only have three wins and 11 points over their past ten games.

The Leafs and Bruins had two close encounters earlier in the season, but the Bruins were victorious both times, winning a 3-2 shootout in Boston, and 4-3 in overtime in Toronto.

The Leafs first loss to the Bruins also included a much-publicized non-response to a Brad Marchand hit on Timothy Liljegren.

The Bruins have also had the Leafs number during playoff encounters, winning the last six series against the Leafs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a chance to change those negative vibes. They will get a chance tonight, and they'll have the newly acquired Ilya Lyubushkin back in the lineup. The goalie for tonight's game is still not known.

With twenty-plus games remaining in the season, and an increasingly likely meeting in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's time for the Leafs to make a statement to their rivals.

manual

Tonight, in a must win game, they need to gain points on their long-time nemesis, make their playoff position more favorable, and send a message in the process.