Six points back of Boston with two games in hand, the Maple Leafs have a big opportunity to close the gap tonight against the Bruins (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

Since the start of February, the Bruins are 4-4-5 while getting out-scored 28-24 and outshot 325-290 (47%) at five-on-five. They’re scoring just 2.26 goals per game over that time, which ranks 29th in the NHL.

It’s noteworthy that the Bruins’ 31-9-9 record as of the end of January came despite a 47% share of the shot attempts and a 48.6% share of the five-on-five shots. They still managed to out-score the opposition 110-76 at five-on-five thanks to a .935 save percentage and a 9.9% team shooting percentage.

The Bruins’ 1.035 PDO was second highest in the league up until the end of January, but it’s fallen to .997 (or 20th in the NHL) since February 1. The answer almost certainly lies somewhere in the middle as to who the Bruins truly are as a team, but the overarching play metrics suggest they’re closer to the team that’s been .500 over the last 13 games than the one that lost only nine games in regulation through the opening 49.

The Leafs are on the opposite trajectory. They’re 10-3-0 since the start of February while scoring a league-leading 4.38 goals per game. After spending their first 47 games below 50% in expected goals and around breakeven in shot attempts, they’ve recorded a 55% share of the five-on-five shots and a 54% share of the xGF. Their PDO is eight-best in the league at 1.011 since February 1 — fairly high, but not top-of-the-league high.

The Leafs are also fully healthy and rolling heading into this matchup while the Bruins forge ahead without a critical piece of their blue line in Hampus Lindholm, who is week-to-week with an undisclosed injury. Top-six center Pavel Zacha, who picked up a minor injury on Saturday, is a game-time decision up front.

With Ilya Lyubushkin good to go despite Saturday’s scare, the Leafs finally have two right-handers on pairings that make sense on their blue line. In net, Joseph Woll is finally healthy and looked sharp in his return versus Arizona, while Ilya Samsonov’s comeback story continues. Calle Jarnkrok returned on Saturday and provided a noticeable boost to the John Tavares-Bobby McMann line. The Leafs have their four lines and three pairs arguably in the best shape they’ve been all season, even if there are areas for improvement defensively with the Max Domi – William Nylander line.

Put it all together, and this is a week where the Leafs could make up some serious ground in the divisional race, but the Bruins — even when they lose — rarely go down without a fight (or at least a point). The 5-1 loss to the Isles on Saturday was an aberration; even during their recent downturn, Boston has still earned a point in nine of their last 13.

A fast start against a Bruins team that is struggling to score could go a long way tonight. During their 4-4-5 stretch since February 1, Boston hasn’t won a game in which they trailed first (0-3-2). Since the start of February, the Leafs are 7-1-0 when they score first.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge against a “struggling” Bruins team with seven losses in their last 10:

They are an elite team. Boston “struggling” is teams barely being able to beat them in overtime or shootouts. They are in every single game. They make it very hard to play against them. It is never an easy night.

Keefe on the look of his blue line on Saturday before Ilya Lyubushkin’s injury:

It looked like it was flowing well. In talking to Mike Van Ryn, he felt good about all three pairs being able to play against anybody and being able to just let the guys flow out the door. The lefty-righty pieces for Brodie and Rielly’s partners seemed to help them with both having right-handed partners. It was very encouraging what we saw.

Boosh — despite the fact that he was working on four or five hours of sleep, a three-hour time change, and he was coming off a big trade with no practice with us — stepped in and looked very comfortable.

Ilya Lyubushkin on the Matt Rempe hit on Saturday and leaving the game:

I saw it coming, but I didn’t have time to protect myself. It’s okay. It happens sometimes.

It’s protocol. Nothing we can do.

Lyubushkin on Ryan Reaves fighting Rempe in response:

It is so nice by him. He is a good guy and a good teammate. I feel good that we have him on this team.

Ryan Reaves on the magnitude of tonight’s game:

It is a team we’re chasing. We’re a couple of points back. They took points off of us a couple of times this year already.

It is a huge game. It is going to set the tone for the game in their building in a couple of days. This is probably the biggest game of the week.

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery on his team’s 5-1 loss to the Islanders on Saturday:

We just weren’t good enough and weren’t firm enough. We didn’t start the game on time. For whatever reason, we weren’t very good. We have to move on and get ready for a Toronto team that is playing really well.

Montgomery on whether he read the riot act to his team after the blowout loss:

It is a little late in the year to read the riot act. We didn’t get to our game. It’s just about being honest with them, reviewing the tape, and showing anything of value to the team.

Montgomery on where his team’s focus lies as they look to turn it around:

Getting back to our checking habits. It’s probably slipped since the All-Star break. It is a combination of us not delivering the message well enough and the players not executing.

Montgomery on the difference in the Leafs’ play compared to earlier in the season:

They look a lot better on offense, defense, and special teams. Everything is clicking.

Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

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

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#23 Matthew Knies – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi  – #11 Max Domi – #88 William Nylander
#74 Bobby McMann – #91 John Tavares – #19 Calle Jarnkrok
#29 Pontus Holmberg – #64 David Kampf – #75 Ryan Reaves

#44 Morgan Rielly – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#78 TJ Brodie – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#2 Simon Benoit – #22 Jake McCabe

Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#35 Ilya Samsonov

Extras: Noah Gregor, Martin Jones, William Lagesson
Injured: Conor Timmins, Mark Giordano

Boston Bruins Projected Lines

#43 Danton Heinen – #18 Pavel Zacha* – #88 David Pastrnak
#63 Brad Marchand – #13 Charlie Coyle – #74 Jake DeBrusk
#21 James van Riemsdyk – #39 Morgan Geeke – #11 Trent Frederic
#94 Jakub Lauko – #26 Marc McLaughlin – #55 Justin Brazeau

#48 Matt Grzelcyk – #73 Charlie McAvoy
#6 Mason Lohrei – #25 Brandon Carlo
#29 Parker Wotherspoon – #22 Kevin Shattenkirk

Starter: #1 Jeremy Swayman
#35 Linus Ullmark

*game-time decision
: Milan Lucic, Hampus Lindholm, Matthew Poitras