After what was the competitive game of the series so far in Game 3, the Toronto Maple Leafs will try to take a stranglehold on the series in Game 4 at Scotiabank Arena tonight (7 p.m, CBC).
For the Leafs tonight, you either put yourself in a position where Boston becomes the slight favourite with two-of-three home games the rest of the way, or you earn yourself two chances to eliminate the Bruins either in Boston in Game 5 or back on home ice in Game 6 before you have to face down the prospect of a Game 7 in Boston. It’s a big swing one way or the other tonight.
There will be no lineup changes tonight for the Leafs, but the Bruins will potentially get back a couple of regulars back in their lineup in Marcus Johansson and possibly defenseman John Moore. Moore, who signed with Boston as a UFA this summer and played 61 games for them this year while averaging 18:46 of TOI, has been skating with and without the team for quite a while now, but has only been cleared for play in the last few days. Johansson has been out with an illness and should feature prominently after playing 16 minutes in Game 1. It’s not clear yet what the lines will be but, due to a lingering illness, Karson Kuhlman is the likely scratch based on Cassidy’s pre-game availability. David Backes likely stays in on Charlie Coyle’s wing after he was among the scratches at practice yesterday, while the bottom line will stay intact.
The Leafs line combinations are also expected to remain the same. Mike Babcock is going to be content to continue to roll out the Zach Hyman – John Tavares – vs. Brad Marchand / Jake Muzzin – Nikita Zaitsev – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak / Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy (usually) matchup and it doesn’t look like the Bruins are going to budge just yet on possibly breaking up that line by shifting the goal-less Pastrnak around the lineup. Patrice Bergeron has yet to be on the ice for a 5v5 goal for this series (two against), while Pastrnak has been on for one for and two against, and Marchand has been on for one and one, respectively. Through three games, the Leafs would’ve taken that no questions asked before the series started. Cassidy has a lot of patience with and faith in his top line, but we’ll see if any adjustments are made if the Leafs can continue to hold steady in that matchup.
The Leafs will look to bring much of the same as they did in Game 3 tonight — they played hard between the whistles, matched (if not outmatched) the Bruins’ physical intensity, and gave them little room through the neutral zone, while getting good efforts out of lines 1, 2 and 4 and a relatively low-event night (in limited minutes) out of their new third line of Marleau – Nylander – Brown. In Games 1 and 3, their defense core was effective defending off the rush as well as breaking up cycles in the defensive zone, with the Muzzin – Zaitsev pairing proving to be something of a revelation so far in the series. The home crowd was electric and the Leafs fed off of that energy at various times in the game. Frederik Andersen remained steady in net and the Leafs again protected a lead effectively without much cause for concern, including a few late shot blocks from Mitch Marner that may prove to be something of a galvanizing moment for the team.
Expect a push from a desperate Boston team similar to Game 2, though, and the Leafs will need to stay disciplined and keep it between the whistles if the Bruins start to push the line out there again as they did in response to their first loss of the series.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on parity in the NHL:
We talk about it every year. First, there’s 31 then there’s 16, and suddenly a couple of days later, there’s 14. Soon, there will be eight. The parity on our league, we talk about it all the time, but I don’t know if you guys believe us. The parity is unbelievable. There’s not much to pick between us. Teams are good and it’s hard to win.
Babcock on the CBJ and NYI sweeps of TB and PIT, respectively:
If I’m not mistaken, I think [Tampa Bay] had 124 points. In Detroit, we had I don’t know how many wins and we lost to Edmonton. When I was in Anaheim, we swept Detroit. I don’t know how many points they had that year. It’s hockey. It’s hard. Lots of times during the year, you think ‘this team’s going to win because of their record.’ That’s not how it is.
Babcock on Matthews’ line getting to another level:
For sure, I really believe that. They’re all young guys. We forget that Kappy and Johnny played in the American League last year and they’re just trying to find their way. They both, coming into the playoffs, I think had gone 20 games without it going great for them. So they’re trying to learn their way. Normally what happens is you’re on the third or fourth line. They happen to be playing with another young player to trying to figure his way out. I thought he was real good last game, though. I thought he was real good defensively and ended up with the puck more. Kappy had his best game in a long time and Johnny on the power play and in general was physical. When you go through all three of their games, they were a lot stronger.
Babcock on the Gardiner and Dermott pairing:
Obviously, health is an issue, but they’re still good players. So are they playing at the level that they’re both capable of when they’re healthy? Probably not, but they’re still good players, so we’ll take whatever they’ve got to offer.
Babcock on what made him go with Muzzin-Zaitsev in the top matchup:
We watched them. We just watched them down the stretch. Muzz is going to get a lot of credit because he’s come here second, but Z is an outstanding defender. Muzz is a big body. He gives them an ability to move the puck and a big body who can defend as well. They’re hard on people and it just makes it hard on the other team. Without the ability to move the puck, they wouldn’t be as good, but they can do that as well.
Bruce Cassidy on defending the Matthews line:
If he starts in his own end, we can force him to defend there and expend energy there. I think we’ve done a good job of that — Krecji, DeBrusk — for the most part. Limit the odd man rushes. I think they’re a rush line that can really hurt you in that area if you don’t have numbers or some kind of back pressure.
[Matthews] has had a couple of good looks, even with his 1-on-1s, 2-on-2s; he rung one of the post in our building. We had numbers back, so he always going to be dangerous there. That’s been essentially what I think we’ve done well.
Time and space through the neutral zone, I thought he had some in our building a little bit, they made an adjustment where they stretched our D our and he got underneath. But for the most part, we’ve tried to identify those situations and keep it tight.
Cassidy on Charlie McAvoy’s effectiveness offensively:
Well, we’ve had a big ask to play against Tavares and Marner every shift. Then if he gets a shift off them, it’s Matthews, right? I think with us, we’ve asked him to be a solid defender first. That’s obviously going to take away some of your energy getting up the ice. When the situation’s there, we want him to help, but that’s been our ask of him. That’s probably why you haven’t seen him up as much.
O-zone blueline play is where you can contribute a little bit more. He hasn’t been as active there and, again, that’s part of Toronto doing a good job against us. He’ll only be effective there if we have the puck and have some o-zone possession, especially out there with Bergeron’s line. We hope that’ll be the case tonight where we have a little longer in the zone. Then he becomes effective because he’s a bit of a ghost in the zone; he’ll find those open pockets and that’s where his offense has come late in the year.
Maple Leafs vs Bruins Matchup Stats
Game 3 matchups from corsica.hockey (size is scaled by TOI and colour is scaled by adjusted xG differential)
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Patrick Marleau – #29 William Nylander– #28 Connor Brown
#42 Trevor Moore – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #63 Tyler Ennis
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#51 Jake Gardiner – #23 Travis Dermott
#8 Jake Muzzin – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#31 Frederik Andersen
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched: Nic Petan, Martin Marincin, Justin Holl, Igor Ozhiganov
Suspended: Nazem Kadri
Boston Bruins Projected Lines
#63 Brad Marchand – #37 Patrice Bergeron – #88 David Pastrnak
#74 Jake Debrusk – #46 David Krejci – #43 Danton Heinen
#90 Marcus Johansson – #13 Charlie Coyle – #42 David Backes
#20 Joakim Nordstrom – #55 Noel Acciari – #14 Chris Wagner
#33 Zdeno Chara – #73 Charlie McAvoy
#47 Torey Krug – #25 Brandon Carlo
#48 Matt Grzelcyk – #27 John Moore*
#40 Tuukka Rask
#41 Jaroslav Halak
Injured: Sean Kuraly, Connor Clifton, Karson Kuhlman
*game time decision