Leafs and Bruins face off in Game 7 showdown once again

oronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (16) battles for the puck with Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (47) during the second period of game six of the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Air Canada CentreThe Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Boston Bruins on Wednesday for the seventh and final game of their first-round playoff series, in a situation very similar to when these two teams met in the playoffs five years ago. 

It’s deja vu for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. When Toronto and Boston met in the playoffs in 2013, the Bruins took a 3-1 series lead before the Maple Leafs won two straight ahead of a Game 7, and the same scenario has played out again, only five years later. Toronto defeated the Bruins on Monday to once again force a decisive contest in Boston on Wednesday, with a chance to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round hanging in the balance.

The Bruins prevailed in 2013 after a wild third-period comeback where they erased a 4-1 Maple Leafs lead before winning in overtime. The nucleus of that Boston team - Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask - is still with the Bruins in 2018, while Toronto has undergone massive changes. The Maple Leafs drafted the dynamic offensive trio of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner, and acquired goaltender Frederik Andersen, who has made all the difference in this series.

Andersen has been spectacular in all three Toronto wins against the Bruins, sealing their Game 3 triumph with an incredible diving stick save on series scoring leader David Pastrnak, making 42 saves to hang on in Boston in Game 5, and stopping 32 of 33 shots on Monday. His performance, and the fact that the Maple Leafs are even still alive in the postseason, seems improbable considering the first two games of the series, which were dominated by the Bruins. Boston chased Andersen from the net early in Game 2 after he allowed three goals on five shots, and the Bruins put five past him in the series opener.

Rather than a repeat of those dismal early showings, Andersen and the Maple Leafs likely hope Game 7 starts more like Game 5, when they scored twice in the opening period to take Boston’s home crowd out of it. One part of Game 5 Toronto would probably like to avoid replicating is the penalties, as the Bruins had six power-play opportunities in the tight 4-3 contest. Another Maple Leafs parade to the penalty box would certainly spell doom for them in Game 7, so discipline will be key against Boston’s agitating style. Marchand has been a thorn in Toronto’s side all series, but the Bruins need his line with Pastrnak and Bergeron to produce some offense after being held off the scoresheet for the last two games.

Anything can happen in a Game 7, something Toronto knows painfully well after watching that 4-1 lead slip away to the Bruins five years ago. Boston is intimately familiar with the atmosphere of a Game 7 having played in 10 of them over the last 11 seasons, but all that really means is they understand how much of a coin flip these winner-take-all games can be.