There was almost no chance that the Leafs were going to avoid having to play at TD Garden more than twice in the first round. With a low probability for a sweep and home ice advantage for Boston, Toronto’s team knew that they’d have to head into enemy territory more often than not as the first round went on.
The good news is that the Leafs have avoided the kind of decimation that two teams have already faced this spring, outlasting both the Tampa Bay Lightning (lmao!) and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wake of a pair of early first-round sweeps.
The bad news, though, is that it looks to be another long and bloody series between the divisional rivals – so even if Toronto comes out of this all-too-crucial game triumphant, they’ll have less energy to spare than they’d like.
It’s a 2-2 tied series, and we’re here for Game 5.
Leafs lines at morning skate
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 19, 2019
As mentioned by The Toronto Sun, there have been 293 recorded hits so far across just four games this series. That’s over 70 per game, and the Leafs will be trying to withstand the onslaught without their biggest antagonist – no matter how many games this series goes, Nazem Kadri won’t be playing – or Jake Muzzin, who is missing the game following the birth of his new baby.
Despite the absences, though, the team’s biggest names have been coming up huge. Game 4 wasn’t great for John Tavares, who put up a dud on the same night that his former team eliminated their own opponents, but is one of three players averaging a point-per-game through the first round thus far. He’s joined by Mitch Marner, who has continued to be crucial for Toronto, and the three-goals-so-far Auston Matthews.
Ultimately, though, this game lies in the hands of Andersen. When he plays well, they win. When he plays poorly, they lose. It’s been the case nearly all season, but never quite as much as now.
Bruins projected lineup for Game 5:
— Matt Porter (@mattyports) April 19, 2019
Boston is currently facing a bizarre predicament, in which their all-powerful regular season line has fallen a bit flat in the playoffs. Patrice Bergeron has been surprisingly disappointing for the team, although he broke out in Boston’s most recent win while playing more limited minutes.
Sean Kuraly is making his way back for Boston, but the real player to keep an eye on is Boston’s most powerful weapon. Brad Marchand has six points in four games, and has shown no sign of slowing down – so if Toronto wants to truly cut off Boston’s chances of success, they’ll have to limit the antagonistic winger from setting up crucial plays and finding the back of the net.
Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen have been among the better goaltenders in the postseason thus far; they haven’t been Robin Lehner or Sergei Bobrovsky, but they haven’t been Martin Jones, either.
There’s little reason to believe that either one of these goaltenders can have a poor game and pull off a win, so they’ll both have to bring their very best if they want to head back to Toronto with the chance to close out the series.
The Boston Globe’s Matt Porter reported that Jake DeBrusk has been so bombarded with toxic comments on social media that he’s had to delete his Twitter and Instagram altogether.
It seems like a no-brainer, but apparently we all need a reminder again: online harassment of players is actually bad. Don’t engage, and help make the world a better place.