Toronto Maple Leafs: Facing Bruins in the first round looking preferable

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: The Toronto Maple Leafs bench congratulates Nikita Zaitsev
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: The Toronto Maple Leafs bench congratulates Nikita Zaitsev /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are all-but-guaranteed to qualify for the playoffs this season, but their first-round opponent is not set in stone just yet.

If the season ended today, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first round opponent would be the Boston Bruins; a rematch of the 2013 season.

Horrific flashbacks to a spectacular collapse in Game 7 of that series aside, facing the Bruins could actually work in Toronto’s favour.

Boston is currently competing with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division title, with just four points separating the two teams.

If Boston wins the extra game they have over Tampa, this would cut the gap to just two points and will have direct implications on the Leafs’ first-round potential.

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The Leafs are expected to clinch third place in the Atlantic, which pits them against the team that finishes second – currently Boston.

For the Leafs, their season performances suggest this is the better of the two potential outcomes.

Mike Babcock’s team has played both the Bruins and Lightning four times each this season, with greatly varying results.

In four games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Leafs have scored 10 goals and conceded 13, earning a 1-2-1 record in the process.

Meanwhile, in four games against the Bruins, the Leafs have posted a 3-1-0 record while scoring 12 goals and conceding 10.

It should also be noted that since February 2016, the Leafs have lost just two out of the 10 regular season games they have played against the Boston Bruins.

The Leafs managed to push a game to OT against both teams, winning one against Boston and falling to Tampa in the shootout.

Some games have been extremely close, with one goal separating either team, but their biggest result was a 4-1 win over the Bruins.

Three points earned against the Lightning compared to six earned against the Bruins suggests the Leafs are in a better position to progress in the first round if they face the latter of the two teams.

Neither team will be pushovers in the playoffs, as evident by their extremely successful respective seasons.

But if the Leafs want to have a psychological edge heading into the playoffs, then knowing the Bruins are the opponent in the first round may give them that.

Next: Impact of another Expansion Draft on the Maple Leafs

What do you think Leafs fans? Which team would you prefer to play in the first round of the playoffs? The Tampa Bay Lightning or Boston Bruins?