Back in 2013, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs squared off in an epic seven-game series. Five years later, a rematch seems inevitable.
On Thursday, Feb. 1, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs picked up their 68th and 65th points respectively. Looking at the playoff picture, the Bruins hold a whopping 20 point lead over the Florida Panthers for the last playoff spot in the Atlantic division. The Leafs are not far off with a 17 point lead amid a four-game winning streak. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a five-point lead over the Bruins for first place in the Atlantic.
Granted, crazy things can happen in the NHL. But it’s safe to say that the Bruins and Maple Leafs are going to make the playoffs barring some epic collapse. Even with over a quarter of the season remaining, coaches need to keep their players eyes on the prize – Lord Stanley’s Cup.
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Both teams are in interesting positions approaching the trade deadline on Feb. 26th. The Maple Leafs have pending UFA’s James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komorov and Tyler Bozak, among others. They also have a surplus of youth budding in the Marlies waiting for opportunities.
Defenseman Travis Dermott has burst onto the scene and Kasperi Kapanen, the main prospect in the Phil Kessel trade, hasn’t seen much playing time. However, in limited opportunities, he has been impressive.
The Bruins are far more intriguing because of their coaching change last season. They’re coming off an 18-game points streak, the second longest in franchise history. Boston is also within striking distance of Tampa Bay for first in the East, which would have been seen as inconceivable back in December.
They also sport three 20-goal scorers and they all happen to be on the same line. Much like the Leafs, they receive production from their young guns like Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk.
I don’t see the Bruins making too big of a splash at the deadline. They have minimal cap space and a solid system going. With veteran leaders like Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara having won the Stanley Cup, they’ll have an easier time staying focused.
Toronto, on the other hand, is a top-10 team in the middle of a rebuild. Fans want the next step to happen after 50 years of misery and they have the trade chips to make it happen.
With the trio of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner all needing new contracts, one wonders if the team makes moves one of Nylander and Marner at the deadline. Matthews is untouchable.
Tampa Bay seems to have recovered from their hiccup before the All-Star Break so it’s more than likely the Bruins and Leafs will meet in the first round.
Both fanbases will find out this month what the brass think about their beloved clubs. With both franchises going through a youth movement, a Stanley Cup Finals appearance is highly unlikely. The on-ice product is doing just fine, only time will tell who’s further along in the retooling process.
We all know what happened the last time these two teams met in the playoffs.
If both teams stay their course, we’ll undoubtedly see a first-round matchup of two up-and-coming teams with the makings of future contenders.