The most anticipated Game 7 of the first round will go down Tuesday night when the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs continue their must-see rivalry.
So far we’ve seen a pretty even series with the teams scoring a similar amount of goals, getting a similar amount of power plays, and enjoying their starting goalies both playing at a high level.
The Game 7 decision could come down to one lucky bounce, or an unexpected opportunity that opens up and one of the teams takes advantage. Whatever happens, the losing club will head into the summer having to look back and wonder “what if?” following such a hard-fought series.
Before we get into Game 7, though, we wanted to look at this series by some key numbers so far.
11-8: Toronto’s goal advantage at 5-on-5
As much as the Maple Leafs’ power play was, especially, an early-season strength for the team, their main advantage over the Bruins comes at even strength. In the regular season, Toronto tied with Tampa Bay for a league-best 206 goals at 5-on-5. Boston, meanwhile, finished 19th with 157 goals scored. So far that advantage has continued in the playoffs, but the gap between the two teams isn’t as big as it is when you look at power plays…
16-14: Boston’s advantage in power-play opportunities
One question heading into this series was, how the clash of styles would play out? An area where we were going to see this was through power plays and, in particular, how many of them would be handed out. In the regular season, Toronto received the fewest power plays in the league and were the second-least penalized team. Boston, was the 13th-most penalized team and were given the ninth-most power plays. The ability to convert on these man advantages has loomed large on the series so far, but in the grand scheme of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning-Columbus Blue Jackets series has been the only one to average fewer penalties in the first round.
7-3: Boston’s goal advantage on the power play
Although Toronto’s power play — especially its top unit — is loaded and made a lot of headlines for how it began the season, Boston’s man advantage finished third best in the league and converted on 24.1 per cent of its attempts from the trade deadline until the end of the season. The good news for Toronto is, if there is any in this stat, is that most of Boston’s success on the man advantage this series has come on the road. The Bruins converted on a whopping 71.4 per cent (5-of-7) of their power plays on the road, versus 22.2 per cent at home (2-of-9). Of course, the Maple Leafs’ power play has gone 0-for-5 at TD Garden this series, which is where Game 7 will be played.
36: The average amount of shots per game by Boston
Only the Colorado Avalanche have averaged more shots a game in Round 1 (41.0) and they blew past the Calgary Flames in five games. Toronto’s average of 31.8 shots ranks eighth in the playoffs, but it’s worth noting that Boston has gotten this advantage mostly from their power play. At 5-on-5, the Bruins hold only a 169-161 shot advantage, but on the power play Boston has taken 33 shots to Toronto’s 19.
.925: Frederik Andersen‘s save percentage
There was some consternation in Leafs Nation over Andersen, who came into these playoffs as cold as he came into last year’s. But, for the most part, Andersen has been in prime form. No one has faced more shots (214) or made more saves (198) than Andersen so far. But, to this point at least, you can’t say goaltending has given anyone a distinct advantage in this series. Tuukka Rask has a .921 save percentage and has made the third-most saves (175) in the NHL — and he’ll likely pass Mike Smith’s 188 saves in Game 7.
11.83-10.58: Toronto’s advantage in 5-on-5 expected goals for
Considering the Leafs have actually scored 11 goals at 5-on-5 in this series, there’s nothing unusual going on for them there. But keeping in mind Boston’s advantage on the power play, if the Bruins can find a way to get to Andersen and break through a little more at 5-on-5 that could be the tale of a Game 7 win. The Bruins have actually scored only eight goals at 5-on-5 for a difference of minus 2.58 in this series, while Andersen has the third-best 5-on-5 save percentage (.953) in these playoffs, trailing only the New York Islanders’ Robin Lehner (.964) and Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer (.966). Yes, these are small samples sizes, but the only two teams with a worse difference between actual and expected goals at 5-on-5 these playoffs than Boston (Pittsburgh and Calgary) won one game between them.
2:25: How much more average ice time Auston Matthews is getting compared to last season
Line matching has been a story in this series and some wondered how that might impact the usage of some of Toronto’s best players. To this point, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has mostly leaned on them, as Toronto’s stars have had their ice time rise in this series compared to 2018’s first matchup against Boston.
Boston, meantime, is mostly level.
|TOI/G in 2018||TOI/G in 2019|
Additional factors here for Toronto are the arrivals of John Tavares (averaging 19:24) and Jake Muzzin (20:22), whose presence has really negatively impacted Jake Gardiner’s usage, especially at even strength. But not only that, you can see how a youngster like Kasperi Kapanen is having his role increase while ageing veteran Patrick Marleau is being shaved down. The team has evolved quite a bit in a year.
Boston, for the most part, has stayed relatively unchanged in this regard — Patrice Bergeron’s drop in ice time can largely be attributed to the fact he played just 14:37 in Game 4, though it is worth pointing out he played less than 18 minutes in Game 6 as well. This has led to some speculation in the Boston market that he may be injured.
61.9: Patrice Bergeron’s faceoff winning percentage
Boston’s top centre finished the regular season with the eighth-best faceoff winning percentage in the league at 56.6 per cent, which also marked the 10th consecutive season he was above 56. In this series so far he’s been even more magnificent, winning 61.9 per cent of the 139 draws he’s taken. The only two Leafs with a faceoff winning percentage over 50 haven’t seen much of Bergeron at the dot: Marleau has won 57.1 per cent of the 28 draws he’s taken, and William Nylander has won 51.2 per cent of his 41 draws. Tavares, who has mostly been matched up against Bergeron, has won 49.1 per cent of his 118 draws, a far fall from the 54.4 per cent he won in the regular season.
3-6: Mike Babcock’s record in Game 7s
Babcock has only coached one Game 7 with the Leafs, dropping last year’s decision to the Bruins. The last time Babcock won a Game 7 was in 2013 with Detroit when they moved past Anaheim in Round 1 — and then were eliminated by Chicago in seven games in Round 2. In fact, Babcock has lost three straight Game 7s and four of his past five dating back to 2011.