Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins – Game #71 Preview & Projected Lines

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Kadri/Marchand
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 21 : Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins skates with the puck against Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden on November 21, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs (32-23-15, 16th in NHL) vs. Boston Bruins (38-27-6, 13th in NHL)

Puck drop: 7:30 p.m. EST
Arena: Air Canada Center
Watch: TSN4


Game Day Notes

– The Maple Leafs enter the game 3-0-0 in the season series with the Bruins, outscoring Boston 14-7 despite getting outshot 99-70 and outpossessed 60:40.

Frederik Andersen posted a .929 save percentage over those three wins; the combination of Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin and Zane McIntyre allowed 13 goals on 69 shots, with Rask (tonight’s starter) allowing seven on 33.

–  The Bruins are 13-6-0 since the All-Star Break, enter winners of seven of their last 10 and are 12-4-0 since Bruce Cassidy assumed interim head coaching duties. The Bruins have scored 62 goals in the 16 games (3.9 per) since Cassidy took over the bench, making them the highest scoring team since February 7. Boston was scoring just 2.6 goals-per-game under Claude Julien prior to his dismissal.

– In addition to the coaching change, another thing worth mentioning in regards to the Bruins’ turnaround is the rest factor. The Leafs and Bruins are working their way through far different second-half schedules. After a busy first half of the campaign, the Bruins have played just 18 games since February 1st, the fewest in the NHL. The Leafs have played 22 games since February 1 and will finish with 12 games in the final 21 days of the season.

– After playing 644 of his 825 even strength minutes alongside Jake Gardiner prior to his Feb. 21 injury, Connor Carrick will return to the lineup and start next to Morgan Rielly tonight. The two have played 62 minutes together at 5v5, posting a 54.3% Corsi For in that small sample.

“They’re similar players in what their strengths are,” said Carrick. “Maybe subtle differences in how they get things done around the ice.”

Carrick is anticipating a playoff-like tempo and atmosphere when puck drops tonight, adding to the challenge of returning to the lineup after a 15-game layoff.

“It’s going to be a heated game. Very playoff-like. It’s probably at an 110% pace of what the game was played at when I was injured.”

In recent games, Mike Babcock has frequently rotated Roman Polak — and occasionally Matt Hunwick — onto Morgan Rielly’s right side in the place of Alexey Marchenko (a healthy scratch tonight). Babcock may choose to ease Carrick back into game action, depending on how he looks early.

“I’m going to try to bring a physical element,” said Carrick. “Shoot pucks, move pucks. Bother some people out there and be hard to play against, fun to play with. The team is going to be playing fast, trying to execute quickly.

“I think the battle is to get in that flow of the game, keep the rhythm. Stay out of your own head and just play hockey. Playing with a guy like Morgan will help do that. No excuses, I expect a good game out of myself.”

Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri split time against Patrice Bergeron and his line in the teams’ last two meetings, both on the road. The Bruins have recently been running Marchand-Bergeron and Krejci-Pastrnak as duos on separate lines, making for a tough matchup challenge. Based on how Mike Babcock handled the Toews and Kane dual threat on Saturday, Nazem Kadri will likely take the brunt of the Bergeron matchup while Brian Boyle will match up against Krejci a fair bit, with Bozak and Auston Matthews getting spot duty/softer minutes. But we’ll see what Babcock has planned.

On defence, Morgan Rielly and Roman Polak took on the Toews matchup for the most part while Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner handled the Kane line. Babcock hinted after the morning skate that he anticipates a different type of challenge — i.e. a heavier line with more of a net-front presence — for Zaitsev and Gardiner versus Boston compared to what they faced against the Kane line on Saturday:

Did you like how Gardiner and Zaitsev handled Kane the other night?
Babcock: Yeah. A different kind of matchup. Not heavy guys, without Anisimov there. They didn’t have anybody at the net. When you have someone at the net, it takes one defender away. When you don’t have anybody at the net, it’s easy for the goaltender and you don’t ever take a defender. So they were easier for us to play against that way.

William Nylander enters the game riding a seven-game points streak, one off of the highest mark posted by a Leaf this season (Auston Matthews’ eight-game streak lasted from December 19 to January 6). Nylander has points in nine of his last 10 games and 20 points in his last 21 — a streak that started with a hat trick against these Boston Bruins in early February.

Brad Marchand enters the game as the NHL’s most productive player in the year 2017 with a ridiculous 27 goals and 48 points in 32 games. Look. Out.

If the Leafs manage to complete the sweep of the season series with a regulation win tonight, they’ll move within a point of Boston for third in the division with a game in hand. A regulation win would improve the Leafs’ playoff odds (currently 63.5%) by 9.3%, while a regulation loss would see them drop 13.3%.

Neither the Lightning or the Islanders — the two teams just behind them in the wildcard race — are in action tonight.


Matchup Stats

Statistics courtesy of SportingCharts.com

StatBosTor
GP7170
Points82
79

ROW
3631
Record %0.5770.564
Home Winning %0.5630.603
Away Winning %0.5680.514
Shootout Winning %0.50.111
Goal Differential Per Game0.240.16
Shot Differential Per Game7.23-0.51
Hits Per Game21.424.3
PIM Per Game109.7
Opponent PIM Per Game9.79.9
Goals Per Game2.863.01
Even Strength Goals Per Game2.12.24
Power Play Goals Per Game0.630.7
Shots Per Game33.832.3
Shots Per Goal11.810.7
Team Shooting %0.0850.093
Power Play %0.2080.236
Goals Against Per Game2.622.86
ES Goals Against Per Game2.072.26
PP Goals Against Per Game0.460.53
Shots Against Per Game26.5832.8
Shots Against Per Goal10.1511.48
Opp. Team Shooting %0.0990.087
Penalty Kill %0.8540.833
Save %0.9010.913
Goals Against Average2.62.81
Shutouts65
Opponent Save %0.9150.907
Opponent Goals Against Average2.832.96
Opponent Shutouts52

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Forwards

Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitchell Marner
Matt Martin – Brian Boyle – Nikita Soshnikov

Defencemen

Morgan Rielly – Connor Carrick
Jake Gardiner – Nikita Zaitsev
Matt Hunwick – Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Starter: Frederik Andersen (28-15-14, 2.67, 0.918)
Backup: Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Alexey Marchenko, Ben Smith, Martin Marincin, Josh Leivo, Eric Fehr


Boston Bruins Projected Lines

Forwards

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes
Matt Beleskey – David Krejci – David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Drew Stafford
Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

Defencemen

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Colin Miller – Kevan Miller

Goaltenders

Starter: Tuukka Rask (33-17-4, 2.32, 0.912)
Backup: Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Jimmy Hayes
Injured
: Tim Schaller


Morning Skate: Mike Babcock

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-13 Maple Leafs Annual magazines. You can contact him at [email protected]