Focused Bruins aim to eliminate Maple Leafs

League: NHL

Posted on: 29 Apr, 2024 at 09:44 PM

Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

New year, different result?

The Boston Bruins will try to close out the Atlantic Division rival Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Tuesday.

Just a year ago, Boston held the same 3-1 first-round series lead before its Presidents' Trophy-winning campaign came to an end in overtime of the seventh game against the Florida Panthers.

Prior to last year, the Bruins had lost just two of 23 all-time series when leading 3-1 in a best-of-seven.

"You always talk about how hard it is -- we've got to match their desperation," coach Jim Montgomery said of his Bruins' mentality entering the potential clincher.

"We talked about urgency with the group this year, about how we need to get better. ... I think the experience of last year helps us this year, but we haven't talked about it."

The Bruins pushed Toronto to the brink of elimination with a 3-1 road win Saturday.

Captain Brad Marchand has scored the deciding goal in back-to-back games, giving him eight playoff points -- tied for second-most in the NHL entering Monday.

Fellow forward Charlie Coyle knows that clinching Boston's third straight win to punch a ticket to the next round will be difficult.

"The ‘closing out' game is always the toughest," Coyle said. "You know their back's against the wall and they're going to give it everything they can. We're expecting their best game, and that's something we want to be ready for. ... Right back at it, we want to show them our best."

Boston holds a 14-7 scoring advantage through four series games, limiting Toronto stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares to just one goal apiece.

Trading chances with the likes of Marchand and fellow high-scoring winger David Pastrnak? It's not how Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe wanted the series to go.

"That's not a very good recipe," Keefe said. "It's a recipe we went with at times during the regular season and it didn't work out for us."

Despite the goal numbers, defenseman Morgan Rielly and the Leafs feel they've been in the games.

"Our team's in a good spot," Rielly said Saturday. "We feel like we're playing hard. We're getting our chances. It's just not going in the net. There's areas to clean up."

While Toronto did welcome back winger William Nylander (undisclosed injury) for Game 4, its ideal recipe also certainly doesn't include missing Matthews, who was the league's goal-scoring leader with 69 during the regular season.

Matthews did not finish Game 4 due to an undisclosed, still-lingering illness before not skating Monday -- before the team flew to Boston -- on what was termed as another maintenance day.

"His status is yet to be determined," Keefe said. "Of course we're hopeful he is available and feeling good and to (being) back to himself."

As expected, neither coach has named a starting goaltender for Tuesday.

Jeremy Swayman made his second straight start Saturday, stopping 24 of the 25 shots he faced. Swayman and Linus Ullmark had evenly rotated for the previous 28 games.

Toronto's Ilya Samsonov was relieved by Joseph Woll after two periods in Game 4.

Montgomery indicated Monday that forward Justin Brazeau (upper-body) and defenseman Derek Forbort (lower-body) would be options for the Bruins' Game 5 lineup.

"We'll see (Tuesday) night if they're in the lineup or not," Montgomery said. "There's steps left to be made, but they're close."

--Field Level Media