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Leafs vs. Bruins Breakdown – Goalies; Webber In The Fold

April 19, 2024, 2:36 AM ET [1 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs finished off the regular season with a 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and without Auston Matthews scoring his 70th goal. The Leafs were feeding their superstar center the puck all night, with him registering nearly one-third of the club’s 38 shots on goal, but Matthews was unable to beat Lightning backup Matt Tomkins. After the game, head coach Sheldon Keefe acknowledged the three-time Rocket Richard winner’s incredible season.

“He has played so tremendously well. There has been a lot of focus on the pursuit of 70 goals, but within that, you kind of lose sight of how well he has played. He is playing well and feeling well. It has been fun to watch.” Keefe said after the game. “The way he played these last two games, if you give him those types of chances and those types of shots, he might’ve gotten 75. It was not meant to be. That is okay. 69 is an unbelievable season.”

After the loss to the Panthers on Tuesday, the Leafs focus quickly shifted from what was thought to be the inevitable rematch with Florida to a first-round encounter with the Boston Bruins. The Bruins fell out of first place with losses to Washington and Ottawa to end the season with 109 points (seven better than Toronto). Boston poses different problems than the Panthers, but the most difficult hurdle for the Leafs is a psychological one.

The Bruins are an excellent team, they are winners, but they are not the club that came back from 4-1 in Game 7 in 2013, they are not the squad that beat the Leafs in seven games in 2018 and 2019. Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic are all gone, and so are Toronto players like Jay McClement, Nikolai Kulemin, James Reimer, Frederik Andersen and the incredibly irresponsible Nazem Kadri who played their part in the Leafs demise in those losses.

Over the next three days leading up to the series, we will breakdown the two teams by position to gauge their strengths and weaknesses leading into this matchup.

Goaltending

The Bruins split the workload between Jeremy Swayman and Vezina winner Linus Ullmark evenly this season, and their statistics were remarkably similar (2.53 GAA and .916 save % for Swayman, 2.55 GAA and .915 save % for Ullmark), so even though it appears that Swayman is the go-to guy to start the series, and even though there were rumors of Ullmark blocking a trade before the deadline, head coach Jim Montgomery has a viable Plan B if Swayman struggles early on.

The Leafs do not have such a luxury. Ilya Samsonov’s recovery from a broken psyche in November and December was nothing short of remarkable, as he went 15-4-2 after the All-Star break, but there has to be some trepidation of a reoccurrence after Samsonov allowed 11 goals in losses to New Jersey and Detroit.

Joseph Woll seemed to be elbowing his way into the starting job before suffering a high-ankle sprain in December, but he was not the same goalie in his return, with five losses in eight starts and a .888 save %.

The Leafs will start the series with Samsonov, but there will likely be a quick hook on him if his struggles continue.

Grade - Advantage Bruins

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The Leafs announced the signing of defenseman Cade Webber to a two-year, entry-level contract. The 23-year-old was a fourth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019 and his rights were acquired for a sixth-round pick just before the trade deadline.

The 6’7, 210-pound blueliner had six assists in 38 games as a senior for Boston University and helped the Terriers reach the NCAA Frozen Four. Known as a shot blocker, Webber was named Hockey East's best defensive defenseman this season.


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