- Toronto leveraged its superior speed to take a 2-1 lead in its first-round playoff series with archrival Boston
- Marner, Rielly, Tavares led the Leafs’ steady attack in crucial Game 3 victory
- Home-ice advantage plus the Bruins’ injury woes leave Toronto poised to claim first series win over Boston in 60 years
The Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded from a bruising 4-1 loss in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series with Boston, returning home to post a 3-2 victory in Game 3 on Monday.
The Leafs have been rewarded accordingly in the NHL playoff odds, where they are now perched as strong -175 favorites to eliminate the Bruins at Bovada.
Maple Leafs vs Bruins NHL Series Price
|Team||Maple Leafs vs Bruins Series Odds at Bovada|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||-175|
*Odds as of 04/16/19
Maple Leafs Return to Game Plan in Game 3
After turning in a strong team performance in a 4-1 Game 1 victory, the Leafs strayed from their game plan in Game 2, engaging in a nasty, physical contest with the Bruins. Playing to Boston’s strength, Toronto was crushed 4-1 and was badly outplayed from the opening faceoff.
Pegged as steadily sinking underdogs on the series prices following Saturday night’s loss, the Maple Leafs rose to the occasion on home ice
After Game 2, the Leafs were sinking underdogs in the series prices. But they rose to the occasion on home ice in Game 3, returning to the strategy that worked so well in Game 1.
The Leafs used their superior speed and depth, backed by ferocious forechecking and another outstanding performance from goaltender Frederik Andersen, to dictate the pace of Game 3 and reclaim the series lead.
Leafs Stars Rise to the Occasion
Toronto’s best players were once again their best players on Monday night. Auston Matthews potted his first goal of the postseason and set up the game winner, while Andersen shut the door on the Bruins, stopping 34 of 36 shots including 16 in the first period.
Trevor Moore. Icebreaker.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 16, 2019
In addition, the Maple Leafs received another big-game performance from the fourth line of Trevor Moore, Tyler Ennis, and Frederic Gauthier. A huge contributor to the Toronto Marlies’ drive to a Calder Cup championship last spring, Moore opened the scoring for Toronto with his first career NHL playoff goal.
Leafs D ice-time diff. vs regular season avg:
Morgan Rielly: +2:21
Ron Hainsey: +2:12
Jake Muzzin: +1:07
Nikita Zaitsev: +0:48
Jake Gardiner: -5:35
Muzzin has taken Gardiner’s minutes, Dermott used sparingly, Hainsey and Rielly up big. Bit of a mixed bag.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) April 16, 2019
Morgan Rielly, who drew an assist on Moore’s marker, emerged as a force in Game 3, contributing at both ends of the ice while piling up a game-high 27:58 of ice time. Rielly also led all shooters with six shots on goal and was on fixture on special teams.
Marner, Tavares, Hyman Winning Battle of Top Lines
Mitch Marner and John Tavares showed their continued willingness to sacrifice the body while also contributing a pair of assists between them. Tavares hasn’t hesitated to put himself in harm’s way, most notably in front of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Meanwhile, Marner provided Andersen with a helping hand by blocking five shots, including a pair of crucial blocks in the final minute to seal the win.
"That's why they have dentists."
— Mike Zeisberger (@Zeisberger) April 16, 2019
Along with Zach Hyman, Toronto’s top line also regularly dictated the flow of play when facing off against the Bruins’ top line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand, who have now amassed just six total points in the series.
And while the loss of Nazem Kadri to suspension for the remainder of the series raised concerns about the Maple Leafs’ ability to respond to Boston’s physical style of play, Toronto has been equally effective at laying a physical beating on the Bruins over the first three games of the series.
Bruins Suffer Quiet Physical Beating by Maple Leafs
Listed as questionable prior to Game 3, Boston defenseman Torey Krug and forward Jake Debrusk suited up despite nursing injuries suffered at the hands of the Maple Leafs.
Debrusk was initially hobbled after violently crashing into the boards after turning over the puck on a play that resulted in Marner’s penalty-shot goal in Game 1.
He then suffered a head injury when Kadri cross-checked him in the face in Game 2, the infraction which led to Kadri’s suspension.
Here’s the DeBrusk hit on Marleau and Kadri crosscheck. pic.twitter.com/WlkPtO2kbe
— NHL Prospects Watcher (@Prospects_Watch) April 14, 2019
Debrusk played in Game 3, contributing an assist, but will likely be a little less effective than usual as this physical series drags on.
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) April 14, 2019
As for Krug, he is playing with a suspected upper-body injury after being laid out by Jake Muzzin in Game 2. Krug’s injury is just the latest to the Bruins’ blueline: Kevan Miller and John Moore have yet to see playoff action, while Connor Clifton missed Game 3 with an upper-body injury.
Krug played a team-high 24:10 in Game 3, but was not as effective as usual. He had a -2.3 Relative Corsi after posting 20.6% and 0.3% marks in the first two games.
Speed, Skill, Teamwork Enabling Maple Leafs to Rewrite Playoff Narrative
While the Maple Leafs still have plenty of work to do to rewrite the narrative of five straight playoff-series losses to Boston, they are clearly trending in the right direction.
The Leafs have now won eight of the last ten meetings with the battered Bruins at Scotiabank Arena and have a great chance to seize a 3-1 stranglehold in Game 4.
With the referees now less likely to tolerate the violent play that marked Game 2, the philosophy of winning with skill and speed has a good chance to bear fruit, further strengthening the value of a wager on Toronto to finally claim a playoff triumph over the archrival Bruins.
Pick: Maple Leafs to win the series (-175)