Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins Preview: The Goaltending

The stage is set for the first round of the NHL playoffs, and the rivals Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins will face off for the 4th time in 11 years. Both teams bring talented rosters to the playing field, and today we will look at how both team's goaltending matches up.
Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs
Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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Since about the halfway point in the season, a lot of people expected the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins to play each other in the first round of the playoffs. Now on the third-to-last day of the year, the stage is offically set, the two Original Six rivals will face off in the first round of the NHL playoffs for the fourth time in 11 years.

Now of course, the Bruins have notoriously beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs in the previous three matchups, including an instant classic game 7in 2013, which was named the NHL's game of the decade.

The Leafs struggling to beat the Bruins in the playoffs is a big storyline for this series, as is the goaltending matchup, which on paper appears to give the Bruins a massive edge.

However, the gap is a lot closer than most may think.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins Preview: The Goaltending

Boston: Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman

The Bruins have arguably one of the top goaltending duos in the entire NHL. The Bruins find themselves with the third-best SV% in the league and sixth in goals against. On top of this, Linus Ullmark won the Vezina Trophy last season, and the duo of Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman won the Jennings Trophy as well. This duo in the regular season was nearly unstoppable last year, and though they've slipped a tad this season, they still rank among the NHL's best.

The playoffs, however, are a different story. The Bruins have yet to win a playoff series with either of Ullmark or Swayman starting in net, including last season, where the team infamously choked a 3-1 series lead to the Florida Panthers. The Bruins themselves haven't won a playoff series since 2021, and neither of Ullmark or Swayman have had any success in the playoffs at the NHL level.

On paper, their tandem is of course still much stronger than the Leafs, but they have yet to win a series in the NHL, which is an important thing to note.

Toronto: Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll

This tandem has been one of the most up-and-down duos to watch all season. Ilya Samsonov had an absolutely brutal start to year, even being demoted to the AHL, but has since turned his year around and put up a solid record of 18-5-2, with a 2.70 GAA and a .904 SV%. since January 1st. Is it spectacular? No. But Samsonov has given the Leafs a chance to win almost every game and his story has been one of the better moments this season for the team.

Joseph Woll's season has been almost the opposite of Samsonov's, as he was looking like a potential Calder Trophy candidate early in the year (and one of the Leafs best players) before getting hurt in December. Since returning, he hasn't been bad, but he has been fairly inconsistent compared to earlier in the year. Woll has had a few solid games, followed by some shaky games, and at this point it's looking more and more likely that Samsonov will be the playoff starter, at least for game 1.

As mentioned before, this season and last as well, the Bruins tandem of Swayman and Ullmark has largely outperformed Samsonov and Woll. However, the playoffs are a different story.

Samsonov was one of the key reasons why the Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in last year's first round, outperforming future Hall-of-Famer Andrei Vasilevsky (.900 SV% vs .875 SV%) in the series. Even in round two, where Joseph Woll put up a strong .921 SV% in 3 games, replacing an injured Samsonov.

Compared to the Bruins, where in their first round series last year Ullmark and Swayman combined for 24 goals against and a .893 SV% in 7 games.

Again, lots can change come playoff time. We've seen time and time again goalies get hot at the right time (a la Jordan Binnington) and lead their teams to the Stanley Cup.

Either team is capable of having the edge in goaltending, and on paper, it looks like Boston has the stronger tandem.

But Ilya Samsonov has done one key thing that neither of Swayman or Ullmark have done, and that's lead his team to a playoff series victory.

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We'll see if he can do it again this year.