Bruins-Maple Leafs. Two Original Six squads pegged by pundits, fans and media folks to go the distance in their first-round series.
Those prognosticators, including your’s truly, might need to eat a little crow as the Bruins have a chance to wrap the series up in Game 5 Saturday night at TD Garden.
Patrice Bergeron took part in the morning skate and will likely return after missing Game 4 with an upper-body injury. Barring any last-minute setback, this will mark the first time that Bruce Cassidy will have his ideal post-trade deadline lineup intact. There is one subtle change, however, and that’s Adam McQuaid reuniting with Torey Krug and Kevan Miller going back with Matt Grzelcyk on the B’s second and third defensive pairings.
The Leafs changes aren’t so subtle. With their season on the line, Mike Babcock is breaking up the duo of William Nylander and Auston Matthews and replacing Nylander with Connor Brown at right wing. Nazem Kadri returns from a three-game suspension taking over second line center duties with Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner, while Tomas Plekanec moves to line three with Nylander and Andreas Johansson and Tyler Bozak will center perennial Bruins killer James van Riemsdyk and Kasperi Kapanen on the fourth line.
The fourth win is always the toughest one to get. The Penguins and Predators both failed in their first chance to clinch their first-round series on Friday. The Bruins hope to have a different result from last year’s Stanley Cup finalists and send the Leafs to the golf course.
Bruins fans: are you heading to TD Garden to watch the Bruins attempt to close out the series with their Original Six rivals? Then head over Constitution Wharf (1 Constitution Rd.) — a short walk to and from the Garden — and avoid the traffic and construction on Causeway St. Mention Bruins Daily at the entrance for a prepaid rate of $12 — $3 less than the usual game night price!
Gametime: 8 p.m.
TV/Radio: NBC/98.5 The Sports Hub
Series: Bruins lead 3-1
Location: TD Garden
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Rick Nash
Danton Heinen-Riley Nash-David Backes
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller
Maple Leafs projected lines
Zach Hyman-Auston Matthews-Connor Brown
Patrick Marleau-Nazem Kadri-Mitch Marner
Andreas Johansson-Tomas Plekanec-William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Kasperi Kapanen
Morgan Reilly-Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott-Roman Polak
Bruins-Maple Leafs Game 5 storylines
– The last time the Bruins were in a clinching spot was four years ago where they had a 3-2 series lead on the rival Canadiens entering Game 6 in Montreal before dropping the next two. One year prior, they had a 3-1 series lead on the Phil Kessel-led Leafs and dropped the next two before their epic Game 7 comeback. The trend here? The Bruins had problems getting that coveted fourth win under Claude Julien. This is the B’s first attempt to clinch a playoff series under Cassidy. They may have some wiggle room, but they can look at Friday’s losses from the Pens and Preds and past history as to the importance of advancing when given the first opportunity.
– Power plays were hard to come by for both the Bruins and Maple Leafs up in Toronto. The Bruins only had one attempt with the man advantage compared to two for the Leafs — one each in Games 3 and 4. It wasn’t for a lack of physicality or scoring attempts and a free-flowing game with few penalties is a welcome sight especially in the playoffs — even with some questionable calls. The Bruins went 5-for-11 on the man-advantage at home, the Leafs cleaned up their act in Toronto. But something tells me that both teams will have a few more power-play opportunities in Game 5.