There will be no overlooking the final game before the All-Star break for either of these teams with the anticipation for part three of the Leafs vs. Bruins 2022-23 season series (7:30 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

The two highly-competitive games between these Original Six rivals earlier this season paint a picture of razor-thin margins between the two clubs.

After a 2-1 win for the Leafs back in November, there was a difference of 0.1 in expected goals (2.67-2.57 in the Leafs’ favour), one high-danger scoring chance (15-14 in the Bruins’ favour), and two shot attempts (52-50 in the Bruins’ favour) at five on five during Boston’s 4-3 win in January.

A big late push from Boston and a couple of costly turnovers from Conor Timmins and John Tavares in dangerous areas of the ice made the difference last time out, and Matt Murray was arguably outplayed by Linus Ullmark. It was Ilya Samsonov — tonight’s starter — who gave up just one goal in the Leafs‘ home win over the Bruins back in November. However, tonight the Leafs will be without Auston Matthews, who has scored three of the Leafs‘ five goals in the season series to date.

The Leafs can expect perhaps a slightly less confident but more urgent Boston team coming off of three straight losses for the first time this season. The recent dip came at the end of a five-games-in-eight-days stretch for them with a four-game road trip through Tampa, Florida, and Carolina (in a back-to-back). Both teams now enter this game on two days’ rest.

Brad Marchand has spent his game day throwing chirps at Marner’s All-Star skates and Toronto reporters/Leafs super fans on Twitter. On the ice, the Bruins are expected to load up their power line of Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak after the team scored a combined six goals over their three losses.

It doesn’t get any better than this for a final game before the break.

Head to Head: Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

In the season-to-date statistics, the Bruins hold the advantage over the Leafs in four out of five offensive categories and four out of five defensive categories.

Game Day Quotes

Brad Marchand on the players he verbally engages with on the Leafs and if Michael Bunting is one of them:

I haven’t really had a whole lot of chatter with Bunting. There are not really many guys who like to get into it. Marner is out there talking about his video games, his dog, and those terrible new stakes he’s got out. Other than that, there are not a whole lot of guys who get into it.

Marchand on whether he has a personal relationship with Marner:

Not really. I have talked to him a little bit here or there on the ice. I respect his game. I think he is an incredible player. That is usually what I tell him — that he is my favourite player.

I think he is really, really good. When we are not playing, I enjoy watching him. The things that he does are really impressive. He is not a big guy, either, and he is not intimidated. He goes to the front of the net and he goes to the corners. I really respect his game. I don’t get into it with him very often.

Marchand on the chirping culture in the NHL:

Nowadays, it is very hard to chirp anyone because of the number of mics around on players and refs. It is tough. Even the refs, as soon as you start talking — because they know there are mics around — they don’t want anyone to get in trouble and shut it down pretty quickly.

Sheldon Keefe on the lessons from the loss to the Bruins in Boston:

You have to play 60 minutes and finish the job. I also that we showed we can play and compete with them. When we are trailing in the game, we could come back.

When you look at this team, they are who they are because they have been thriving in all facets of the game: five-on-five, special teams, goaltending, and faceoffs. They are at the top of the league in every facet.

There are no shifts off. There are no plays off.

Keefe on the Leafs’ second-period strengths vs. Boston’s third-period strengths:

Second periods are for sure really important for us. We have found ways to really up our pace in that period. We are a lot to handle when that is the case.

In the third period, you could probably point to a lot of different things for Boston and their strengths. If you look at a lot of their games, sometimes, they are really close, and they just pull away in the end. The other team breaks before they do. We were guilty of that the last time we saw them.

That is part of it. They stay with it and pull away. I am sure because they have won so much, the empty net goals might inflate that number, but you it is also a tribute to their team. They just stay with it, pull away, and win games in the end.

That is a trend that we noted before we played them last. It became true in the game that we played them.

Keefe on Wayne Simmonds dressing for all three games against Boston so far:

I talked about Wayne yesterday. He brings a lot to our team in terms of the energy, the voice, the experience, and the presence in the lineup. There is a lot to be said there.

We also have 12 forwards on the roster right now that are healthy and ready to play. There wasn’t much that went into this decision beyond that. But like I said yesterday, there are elements that Wayne brings that help us in these games that we expect to be very competitive and physical.

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery on the team’s five-on-five play in their recent losses:

We are okay with the way we are defending. I think we have gotten to be a little bit on the perimeter offensively. We need to be harder on entries. We need more of a willingness to get to the dirty areas with and without the puck. We need to have our defensemen in a shot-first mentality.

Montgomery on the last matchup against the Leafs:

It was a great hockey game. Both teams played really well. Both teams made plays offensively and defensively. Both goalies made some great saves. Hopefully, we have a great game like that again tonight.

The Leafs take away your time and space well. They attack your net well. Your rush defense has to be pretty perfect or they are going to get scoring chances.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#19 Calle Järnkrok – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #88 William Nylander
#47 Pierre Engvall – #64 David Kämpf – #28 Joey Anderson
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #24 Wayne Simmonds

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#60 Joseph Woll

Extras: Jordie Benn, Conor Timmins
 Matt Murray, Auston Matthews, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete

Boston Bruins Projected Lines

#63 Brad Marchand – #37 Patrice Bergeron – #88 David Pastrnak
#18 Pavel Zacha – #46 David Krejci – #71 Taylor Hall
#17 Nick Foligno – #13 Charlie Coyle – #12 Craig Smith
#10 A.J. Greer – #11 Trent Frederic – #94 Jakub Lauko

#48 Matt Grzelcyk – #73 Charlie McAvoy
#27 Hampus Lindholm – #75 Connor Clifton
#28 Derek Forbert – #25 Brandon Carlo

Starter: #35 Linus Ullmark (unconfirmed)
#1 Jeremy Swayman

Injured: Jake DeBrusk, Tomas Nosek