Fresh off the most successful regular season in their century of existence, the Maple Leafs' gift from the NHL is the Bruins, the fourth-best team in the league and the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed.
This is the 15th postseason meeting between the Original Six franchises and first since Boston's infamous come-from-behind stunner in the 2013 conference quarterfinals. Toronto owns an 8-6 series edge in the previous 14 matchups, but the teams are even as can be with a 34-34-1 ledger all time.
Boston Bruins (-155) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (+125): Schedule, picks, predictions
Game 1: April 12 at Boston, 7 p.m.
Game 2: April 14 at Boston, 7 p.m.
Game 3: April 16 at Toronto, 7 p.m.
Game 4: April 19 at Toronto, 7 p.m.
*Game 5: April 21 at Boston, TBD
*Game 6: April 23 at Toronto, TBD
*Game 7: April 25 at Boston, TBD
(All times Eastern; * If necessary)
Regular season meetings: TOR, 3-2 OT (11/10); TOR, 4-1 (11/11); BOS, 4-1 (2/3); TOR, 4-3 (2/24)
Brandon Schlager: The Bruins are high on everyone's list of Stanley Cup favorites, and rightly so, but the Leafs aren't far behind. This Atlantic Division meat grinder isn't going to be kind to anyone involved. With Patrice Bergeron on Auston Matthews, the Leafs need their other lines to lessen the scoring burden, especially Nazem Kadri, Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau. The Bruins are deeper on defense, too, and Tuukka Rask gives them a slim edge in net over Frederik Andersen. All that said, Toronto beat Boston three times in the regular season — each without Matthews in the lineup. Matthews took his time recovering from several different injuries this season. He's well rested now. In fact, there might not be a healthier team in all of the playoffs. Another year wiser, the Leafs have the feel of a team that can get on a run and win a Cup, years ahead of schedule.
Maple Leafs in 7 games
Evan Sporer: Probably going to be one of the more entertaining series on tap in the first round, and a shame it has to come so early. (Related: If you're Boston or Toronto, where's the equity in finishing second and third in your conference and then having to match up against one another?) There are so many fascinating subplots to this series: The chess match between Mike Babcock and Bruce Cassidy in terms of line matching, Babcock wanting to get Matthews' line away from Bergeron's, and Cassidy working for that matchup. The Maple Leafs getting an opportunity to exorcise some major 2013 demons (but, keep in mind, there are only five Maple Leafs that remain from that 2013 team). If the Bruins get Rick Nash back and he can contribute in any kind of capacity, that's a pretty major boost. The Bruins are still going to lean heavily on Bergeron-Brad Marchand-David Pastrnak, though there are worse lines to depend on for offense.
Bruins in 7 games
Jim Cerny: This is going to be a great series, and I can easily make the argument for either team winning. Both teams rely on some very talented younger players, while leaning at the same time on core veterans. Mike Babcock gives the Leafs an edge behind the bench, Auston Matthews might be the biggest game-changer on either team and Toronto is the healthier club entering the series. Yet, since December, the Bruins have been just about the best team in the NHL, with the possible exception of the Nashville Predators, and I like Tuukka Rask just a little bit more in net than Frederik Andersen.
Maple Leafs in 7 games