TOR-BOS series preview

The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs features 16 teams in eight best-of-7 series, which start Saturday. Today, previews the Eastern Conference First Round between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.

(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

Bruins: 47-20-15, 109 points

Maple Leafs: 46-26-10, 102 points

Season series: BOS 4-0-0; TOR 0-2-2

Game 1: Saturday at Boston (8 p.m. ET; MAX, truTV, TBS, SN, TVAS, CBC)

When the Bruins and Maple Leafs meet in the Eastern Conference First Round, it will mark a familiar battle between Atlantic Division and Original Six foes. The two sides have faced off 16 times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, most recently in 2019, and four times in the past 11 years.

The Bruins are coming off the playoff disappointment of last season, when they fell to the Florida Panthers in the first round after a historic regular season when they set NHL records in wins (65) and points (135). The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, made it to the second round for the first time in 19 years before they too lost to the Panthers.

"It will be a real challenge, but obviously real special to play in that," Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. "An Original Six [matchup] that has a lot of history to it. It's a great opportunity for us, so we know it will be a real test and we will have to be prepared."

The Bruins will look significantly different than last spring. They lost franchise icons Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to retirement, replacing them by promoting Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha. That leaves captain Brad Marchand as the only player remaining from the 2011 Stanley Cup champions and Game 7 of the 2013 first round, when Boston rallied from down 4-1 in the third period to defeat Toronto 5-4 in overtime. James van Riemsdyk played that game for the Maple Leafs and signed with the Bruins on July 1.

The Bruins started the season hot (11-1-1) and have largely maintained that pace, though they did lose three of their final four games after winning four straight. That set up the best-of-7 series with the Maple Leafs after it appeared they might see the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round with Toronto playing Florida.

"I don't think it matters," Toronto forward Mitch Marner said. "I think regardless of whoever we were going to play, it was going to be a competitive matchup and now obviously we are excited for that."

The Maple Leafs bring with them one of the best offenses in the game, their 3.63 goals per game second only to the Colorado Avalanche (3.67). Forward Auston Matthews scored 69 goals, the highest total in team history. Toronto also ended the season on an up-and-down run, winning three games, then losing their last four games (0-3-1).

But both teams are looking forward to getting started with the first round. It is the playoffs, after all.

"It's a whole different beast," Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark said. "It's a lot of emotions, a lot of adrenaline. Everything becomes more fun, so I'm very excited about what's to come."

Game breakers

Bruins: David Pastrnak is the Bruins' most dynamic scorer, finishing fifth in the NHL with 110 points and leading Boston by 43 points over Marchand. It marked the second straight season he's gotten at least 110 points (113 last season). Pastrnak had 47 goals and 63 assists, including 35 points on the power play. He has scored more than a point per game in the playoffs, (35 goals, 44 assists in 77 games), including the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

Maple Leafs: It had been 31 seasons since Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny each scored 76 goals in 1992-93. Though Matthews just missed 70 goals, his 69 were the most since Mario Lemieux scored 69 in 1995-96. Matthews is clearly the gamebreaker on a team full of offensive stars. He had 107 points in 81 games, a new NHL career high. He has 44 points (22 goals, 22 assists) in 50 playoff games, including 11 (five goals, six assists) last season when he reached the second round for the first time.


Bruins: Goaltending is their biggest strength. They boast a 1A/1B tandem that no one can match, with Ullmark, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, and Jeremy Swayman. Ullmark went 22-10-7 with a 2.57 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 40 games (39 starts), including 6-3-0 with a 1.90 GAA and .935 save percentage in nine games since the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline on March 8. Swayman went 25-10-8 with a 2.53 GAA and .916 save percentage in 44 games (43 starts). It is unknown, so far, who will start Game 1 and, beyond that, how the Bruins will use their goalies.

Maple Leafs: Ilya Samsonov is likely to start for the Maple Leafs. He was 23-7-8 with a 3.13 GAA, .890 save percentage and three shutouts in 40 games, a season so up-and-down he required a break and reportedly considered retirement. He was placed on waivers Dec. 31 and recalled from Toronto of the American Hockey League on Jan. 10. Samsonov has 17 games of postseason experience and is 5-10 with a 3.06 GAA and .902 save percentage, including 4-4 in nine games last season with a 3.13 GAA and .898 save percentage. Behind him is Joseph Woll, who went 12-11-1 with a 2.94 GAA and .907 save percentage in 25 games (23 starts).

Numbers to know

Bruins: Marchand has played 146 playoff games, 11th among active NHL skaters, including three trips to the Stanley Cup Final. Twenty-one have come against the Maple Leafs (seven goals, 14 assists).

Maple Leafs: Matthews scored 51 goals at even strength, the most since Selanne had 52 in 1992-93, with only Brett Hull (57 in 1990-91) scoring more in the past 36 seasons.


Bruins: Thanks largely to Charlie Coyle's NHL career highs in goals (25) and points (60), the Bruins maintained their regular-season dominance after Bergeron and Krejci retired. The 32-year-old has performed well in the playoffs as a third-line center; he had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 24 games during their Cup Final run in 2019 and six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games of the 2022 postseason. But Coyle and fellow center Pavel Zacha will have their most difficult assignment of their playoff careers against Maple Leafs centers Matthews and Tavares. -- Pete Jensen

Maple Leafs: Tyler Bertuzzi was elevated to Matthews' line down the stretch and bounced back from a slow start with 21 points (14 goals, seven assists) over his final 26 games. Toronto signed Bertuzzi to a one-year contract to bring a different element to its forward group come postseason time, and he faces his former team after he had 10 points (five goals, five assists) during Boston's seven-game loss to Florida in 2023. Bertuzzi also has a high goal-scoring ceiling considering he had 30 in 68 games for the Detroit Red Wings in 2021-22. -- Pete Jensen

They said it

"I think a lot of people probably ruled us out, but all you need is a shot. All you need is that X next to that team name, right? Get in the playoffs and now we're in. We'll see what we can make of it, but we know we had a team to make it and have a run. Now it's just up to us to stay healthy, put it together, play well and make it happen." -- Bruins forward Charlie Coyle

"It just wasn't meant to be. It was nice to have for my teammates, for the organization, and the fans. It definitely means a lot, but this is where we want to have our success, in the postseason. We want to make sure that we're elevating our game, and for myself, individually. We want to turn the page now." -- Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews

Will win if ...

Bruins: Their goalie -- or goalies -- play at their best. Both can steal games and they'll need to do exactly that because the Bruins will struggle to match the Maple Leafs goal-for-goal in a high-scoring affair.

Maple Leafs: Their offense takes over. Few teams can equal the Maple Leafs in terms of pure scoring potential with the combination of Matthews, William Nylander, Marner and Tavares. If that quartet is scoring in bunches, Toronto takes the series.

DET@TOR: Matthews wires home a shot fom the circle for his 69th

How they look

Bruins projected lineup

Brad Marchand -- Charlie Coyle -- Jake DeBrusk

Danton Heinen -- Pavel Zacha -- David Pastrnak

James van Riemsdyk -- Morgan Geekie -- Trent Frederic

Johnny Beecher -- Jesper Boqvist -- Pat Maroon

Hampus Lindholm -- Charlie McAvoy

Brandon Carlo -- Matt Grzelcyk

Kevin Shattenkirk -- Andrew Peeke

Linus Ullmark

Jeremy Swayman

Scratched: Jakub Lauko, Parker Wotherspoon

Injured: Justin Brazeau (upper body), Derek Forbort (undisclosed), Matthew Poitras (shoulder)

Maple Leafs projected lineup

Tyler Bertuzzi -- Auston Matthews -- Max Domi

Matthew Knies -- John Tavares -- Mitch Marner

Nicolas Robertson -- Pontus Holmberg -- William Nylander

Connor Dewar -- David Kampf -- Ryan Reaves

Morgan Rielly -- Ilya Lyubushkin

Simon Benoit -- Jake McCabe

Joel Edmundson -- Timothy Liljegren

Ilya Samsonov

Joseph Woll

Scratched: Martin Jones, Noah Gregor, Conor Timmins, Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie

Injured: Calle Jarnkrok (hand), Matt Murray (hip), Bobby McMann (lower body)