Neither the Bruins or Maple Leafs thought this first round series would be easy heading into their second straight postseason showdown. They were right.
The Original Six rivals head into Friday’s Game 5 tied at two games apiece. They haven’t disappointed their loyal supporters with their performances either.
Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen have made timely saves between the pipes. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had their shining moments with dazzling offensive performances. Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, Morgan Reilly, Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Muzzin had stellar moments patrolling the respective Boston and Toronto blue-lines. The power plays on both ends of the ice made a difference in Games 3 and 4. And the hard-hitting from the two storied franchises has carried over with each and every game.
In other words, the Bruins and Maple Leafs provided a little something for everyone during the first week of the postseason. And now they find themselves in a de facto best of three series starting Friday night.
The Bruins had a bit of trouble holding off the Maple Leafs relentless attack in Game 4. Matthews and company overcame a two-goal deficit to even things up early in the second period before Pastrnak’s first two tallies of the series. They nearly came back from a three-goal deficit in the third, but the Bruins settled down and held off the talented Leafs with a strong defensive stance in the last five minutes and change to even the series.
With a little momentum on their side, the Bruins have to feel pretty good about their chances even though they haven’t really performed at a top level through the first four games.
“I think we’re in a good place. We expected a very tough series. They’re a very good team and, you know, I think we kind of expected to be where we’re at right now,” forward Brad Marchand a day after tallying a pair of assists in Game 4. “[It’s been a] hard-fought battle. We expect it to go the distance, so we’re in a good spot. We’re excited to get back home again and we’re looking forward [to Game 5].”
Well, the series will at least go six games. There’s also a good chance for another Game 7 in Boston given the recent history between these historic franchises.
Neither team carried momentum over from one game to the next. The Bruins responded to the Leafs Game 1 victory with a physical and stellar performance in Game 2. The opportunistic Leafs responded in Game 3 while the Bruins countered that with a nail-biting finish to Game 4.
But there’s one potential difference going into Game 5. The Leafs won’t have Nazem Kadri as he serves another suspension, this time for his late and cheap hit on Jake DeBrusk in Game 2. The Bruins may have an upgrade, though, as Bruce Cassidy labeled Sean Kuraly (hand) a game-time decision for Friday night.
The Bruins may have their ideal lineup for the first time in the postseason. They know they’ll have Marc Savard cheering them on in his first TD Garden appearance since his last season in Black and Gold in 2010-11. Now they hope it translates into a big momentum boost and a chance to clinch the series in Toronto.
“The momentum changes really quickly in the playoffs,” Krejci said during the team’s media availability on Thursday. “If you win a game and then the next game you go out there it’s always about that game. The momentum changes and you’ve got to say even-keel.”
It’s been a back and forth series featuring a fair amount of punches and counterpunches. The Bruins and Maple Leafs are far from delivering a KO, but one team will get closer come Friday.
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