Point Spread Weekly
Two of the NHL’s original six teams, the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, will entertain puckheads tonight with a fourth Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 7 against each other in the teams' storied histories.
The clubs have exchanged wins in their previous three Game 7 results. In 1941, the Bruins advanced in the semifinal round. In 1959, the Maple Leafs returned the favor and advanced past the B’s in the same semifinal round (the Stanley Cup Playoffs had a much different tournament bracket pre-expansion).
In this same quarterfinal round in 2013, these two teams played a memorable contest in which the Maple Leafs held a 4-1 lead late into the game only to have the Bruins score three (the third with 41 seconds remaining in the third period) to send it into OT where Brad Marchand scored to advance the Bruins.
Boston’s depth and veteran leadership made them the -150 favorite in this series and they’ll be a -160 chalk again.
Boston came -150 in Game 1, -185 in Game 2 and -185 again in Game 5. Today's -160 represents Toronto’s recent performances coupled with the overall tightening of play in any Game 7.
A major factor in considering the Bruins is the veteran leadership on this team. That depth of leadership is mixed with a great infusion of youth (forced into action during the regular season to overcome numerous injuries on the roster).
Together they comprise a team that with Tukka Rask in net execute hockey "from the goal out." The Bruins play excellent defense (2.56 GAA regular season and 2.66 GAA this round), their defense allows the fewest shots on goal of all the playoff teams and they earned this opportunity with their regular-season success to compete on home ice for this ultimate showdown.
Toronto’s advantages are in its team speed, the momentum they tote into town as they’ve played excellent hockey behind the efforts of goalie Frederik Anderson, a clear advantage on the bench in head coach Mike Babcock and the motivation to make amends for the organization's defeat in 2013. The Toronto D has been less than stellar in this series as it has been bailed out (recently) by the stellar play of Anderson.
It will be Anderson’s performance more than any other that will be the determining factor in whether the Leafs can move forward into the next round as he was shaky early in this series and has performed well the last couple of contests.
But in my judgment, moving on to Round 2 to compete against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be the Boston Bruins, who are the deeper club, the more talented club and the team that executes hockey “from the goal out."
Enjoy Game 7, Puckheads!