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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

LGD: Welcome to the Austonless Show

The Toronto Maple Leafs are always down for a good, healthy rivalry matchup.

With key playoff-bound points on the line, though, the Leafs couldn’t be facing their division rivals in Boston at a worse time; without Auston Matthews in the lineup, it’s a big blow to their overall level of competition against a team that’s been flying high.

THE BRUINS

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Zdeno Chara
ZDENO CHARA
Charlie McAvoy
CHARLIE MCAVOY
Torey Krug
TOREY KRUG
Brandon Carlo
BRANDON CARLO
Matt Grzelcyk
MATT GRZELCYK
Kevan Miller
KEVAN MILLER

The Bruins made a few little moves this week by picking up Nick Holden (who is not expected to be in the lineup) and moving out Frank Vatrano (who was almost never in the lineup, anyway).

Danton Heinen has been the name to watch lately, putting up 12 goals and 39 points in 54 games this year and counting. He’s one of the highest-scoring rookies in the league, matching pace with guys like Alex Debrincat, Nico Hischier, and Kyle Connor.

As always, though, Boston’s top line is their imminent threat. Brad Marchand came right back from his suspension to continue scoring, and currently sits 28th league-wide with 55 points (despite only playing in 45 games so far out of a possible 58). Between him, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, Toronto will have their hands full.

THE LEAFS

We haven’t seen Nazem Kadri as a top line center in a little while!

Another thing to note is the William Nylander At Center storyline, which is something to watch moving forward. Mike Babcock has made it clear that he’s hoping to give Willie a shot at the pivot, which will either go incredibly well (because Nylander is perfect in everything he does) or crash and burn against Boston and the elite face-off numbers of David Krejci.

Still a fourth-line role for Leo Komarov. Still a role at all for Roman Polak. Not too much else to say.

STARTING GOALIES

It’s Frederik Andersen for the Leafs, which is really no big surprise. Although he’s had a few substandard games lately, he’s still clearly in the running for the Vezina this year, and the team is playing him in basically every game they humanly can until he collapses in a pile of dust.

For Boston, Tuukka Rask will start, although he’s trending in the opposite direction from Andersen. After a rough start to the season, he was able to concede some starts to the currently rock-solid Anton Khudobin, which left him with a much more manageable workload. His .922 save percentage in all situations is just slightly below Andersen’s .923, but a lot of that has been happening recently – which isn’t a good sign for Toronto.

NOTES

  • This is the last time we’ll see these two teams play each other in the regular season, but it’s hard to picture a scenario where they face anyone but each other in the first round of the playoffs – so although the players often insist they read little into those kinds of predictions, expect this to be a matchup with even less love lost than normal.
  • The Bruins have won four of their last five games, but the firepower they had to start the season is starting to give way a bit to fatigue. After an absolute thrashing by the Vancouver Canucks last weekend, they were only able to earn two points against the Calgary Flames by taking the game to overtime – and then nearly lost to the Edmonton Oilers before taking advantage of a near-comical third-period collapse by Edmonton to pull off a 3-2 win in regulation. Toronto may be down Matthews right now, but Boston hasn’t exactly been as lethal as they were even a few months ago.
  • At this point, the goaltending battle looks evenly matched, but Andersen has been getting as tired as the Bruins lately. His numbers, while still game-saving on more than one occasion lately, haven’t been quite as infallible as they were back in December and even January. He’s hitting a point where the team allowing 35-40 (and beyond) shots a night is catching up, and Boston may try to take advantage of that, particularly using their top line.

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  • lukewarmwater

    Steady Freddy wins for the 9th time out of 10 against the bean towners who he obviously eats for breakfast , lunch and dinner. Cat you are right a high flying team, yes the leafs who won their 9th in a row at home and moved ahead of the Bruins who indeed are wearing down as Chara looks 50 out there. The leafs simply outskated them with Marvelous Mitch Marner chipping in with a goal and three assists. Fascinating to watch the nasty boys, an old wrestling tag team, namely Kadri and Marchand both have two goals tonight.
    But what had everyone spitting out there beer was Jake the Snake actually throwing body checks. Btw once the leafs have figured out what position they will be in with their plus 100 point season, trust me Steady Freddy will get some rest as Curtis Mac has been superb lately coming out of the bull pen.
    Keep it going leafs. Go leafs Go. Btw the leafs won the series 3 to 1 and have owned the Bruins the past couple of seasons. Let us not forget the leafs are only in their second year of the rebuild. Auston undoutably enjoyed the game as he rests his injury knowing that the leafs can play over 500 with out him.