Finally we got back in the win column in a big way yesterday evening with a decisive Senators victory over the Canadiens. We enter Monday evening now with a 4-2 record thus far in the post-season on our featured selections and we’ll look to keep that momentum going tonight.
Tonight’s game features one of the best series going right now, the Leafs and the Bruins. The opening two games in Boston were hard-hitting and fast-paced and don’t expect Game 3 to be any different. After a long nine-year wait the city of Toronto finally has playoff hockey back in their hometown and expect a revved up atmosphere in favour of their beloved Blue and White. Whether or not that can propel their team to another victory remains to be seen. Read on below for further game thoughts and a prediction on Game 3.
Boston Bruins (-125) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (+105)
After routing the Leafs in Game 1 this didn’t look like it was going to be much of a series. The black and gold of the Boston Bruins were whizzing by Leafs defenders like pylons and their combination of size and strength was overwhelming for Toronto. That said, an entirely different Leafs squad showed up Saturday night. James Reimer was magnificent, making timely saves and looking every bit the part of a star goalie. Their forwards were fast, routinely skating the Bruins into the ground and winning key races to the puck. And their defense was steady, often making a great first pass and springing their skilled players for frequent odd-man rushes and breakway chances. Toronto looked great Saturday night, but whether or not that can translate into another consistent outing Monday night is the big question.
I’d lean toward saying it cannot. The Leafs are a good, young team, and I do think both these squads are better than both Montreal and Ottawa so it’s a shame one will have to be eliminated, but Boston is just too much for Toronto. Much of the Bruins’ problems in Game 2 can be attributed to two key factors. Firstly, the absence on the back-end of Andrew Ference was very problematic for Boston. Ference is as steady as they come in his own end, and his suspension meant Chara and Seidenberg had to split up. That tandem is dynamite and when they were split up, it threw the rest of the combinations out of sync. Expect that to be remedied come Monday night. The second factor was the variation of line combinations head coach Randy Carlyle threw out there. Carlyle is a great line-matcher and his different combinations forced Boston’s rhythm out of whack. They weren’t expecting this at all and couldn’t effectively game-plan for it. Phil Kessel was able to avoid Zdeno Chara for key stretches, and this vaulted the Buds to a key Game 2 victory. It’ll be tougher to do now for Toronto with Boston expecting it, though last change at home could be crucial.
The Bruins weren’t happy with their outing Saturday night and have vowed to be better in Game 3. They possess a plethora of weapons that pose many problems for Toronto and even though they lost Game 2, they still carried possession and the lead in shots on goal. The Bruins play a style that gives teams like Toronto fits and expect the big, hulking Bruins forwards to put pucks in deep and make the Leafs’ defense work to get the puck out of their zone. For whatever reason Toronto struggles with their breakouts and Boston will force many turnovers, keeping the Buds on their heels all evening.
Though it promises to be a special evening with the playoffs returning to Hogtown after nine long years, expect the Bruins to step right in and ruin the festivities. Boston will be just as excited as for many of their players, returning to the Toronto-area is a homecoming and look for them to feed off of this. The Bruins are an experienced group that knows exactly what it takes to win, and look for them to take Game 3 in a dominating performance. Lay the slight road chalk with the B’s in Game 3.
PICK = Boston (-125)