Thursday, June 13 2024

Why Brad Marchand views Leafs as ‘extremely tough matchup’ in Round 1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Many Boston Bruins fans preferred their team play the Toronto Maple Leafs, not the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And those fans ultimately got their wish as the B’s dropped to second place in the Atlantic Division with back-to-back losses to end the regular season.

Even though a strong case can be made that, yes, the Leafs are a more favorable matchup for the Bruins than the Lightning, this series should still be a pretty tough one for Boston. There is no easy matchup in the playoffs, and the Leafs present plenty of challenges with their star-studded roster.

The Leafs also have made an effort to add some toughness to their group over the last year. They acquired forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi last offseason, and then added veteran defenseman Joel Edmundson at the trade deadline.

“At the start of the season, that’s what you want. You want an opportunity to play for a Cup. Toronto’s gonna be an extremely tough matchup,” Bruins captain Brad Marchand told reporters after Thursday’s practice.

“They obviously have a ton of firepower and added some toughness at the (trade) deadline, playing a much harder, tougher brand of hockey. It’s going to be a great matchup, should be fun. We’re excited to get going.”

Bruins-Leafs has become one of the NHL’s best rivalries over the last 11 years. But it’s been a pretty one-sided affair in terms of results. The B’s eliminated the Leafs in the first round in 2013, 2018 and 2019. Boston also went 4-0-0 versus Toronto during the regular season.

But don’t expect the Bruins to come into this series with too much confidence.

“It means nothing,” Machand said of the Bruins’ recent success over the Leafs. “They’ve changed since the deadline. They’re playing really well. At playoff time, everything changes. It’s a clean slate for every team. It doesn’t matter where you finish, how you did in the regular season, it’s over and done with. It begins again. It’s about starting from zero again.”

The Bruins know firsthand how little regular season results matter in the playoffs.

They set league records for the most wins and points last season, only to lose to the Florida Panthers in the first round. The B’s went 3-1-0 against the Lightning in the 2017-18 regular season before losing to Tampa Bay in a five-game second-round series. In 2013, the Bruins were swept in the regular season by an absolutely loaded Pittsburgh Penguins team that made significant trade deadline improvements and was the overwhelming favorite to win the Eastern Conference. None of that mattered when the B’s swept the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Bruins have been a motivated group all year. Few people before the season saw the B’s as legit contenders in the Eastern Conference given all the talent they lost last summer. It’s safe to say the Bruins have, at least so far, exceeded most expectations of them. Whether they can do the same in April, May and possibly June, remains to be seen.

“We had different adversity we had to go through this year together,” Marchand said. “A lot of people wrote us off before the season even began. We built something great this year and came together, and now we have another opportunity to do that again.”

Game 1 of the series is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Saturday at TD Garden.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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