If you told me last season that the Bruins and the Maple Leafs would be fighting for first place in the Northeast Division, I would slap your face until your cheeks turned a lovely pinkish hue. Alas, I would've been wrong and probably in jail for assault because it's the end of November and these two are in a dog fight for that illustrious first spot. The Bruins are coming off of a nice comeback win against the Atlantipeg Jets while Toronto is coming off of a win of their own, a 5-2 victory over the struggling Ducks.
The only thing Boston has going for them is that they are 2-0 against Toronto this season and have scored a bevy of goals against the Maple Leafs. These wins include a 6-2 win in Boston and a 7-0 beatdown in Toronto in the beginning of November. It also doesn't hurt the Bruins that the Maple Leafs top goaltender, James Riemer, has been out with some injuries and the Bruins have had the pleasure of facing the tandem of Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens.
Neither goalie has proved that they can handle a full work load. Gustavsson was pegged as the second coming in Toronto, has been anything but. In the 13 games he's played, he's sporting a 3.06 GAA and a save percentage barely above .900 (.901). Scrivens hasn't been any better, which isn't surprising since last season he spent the year in the ECHL. Scrivens, though, does have a better GAA (2.96) and a better save percentage than Gustavsson (.901 to .903) but that's not saying much since Scrivens has only played in 8 games (and sports a 2-4 record).
But there are some similarities when you look at the statistics. Boston and Toronto are number 2 and 3 overall in the NHL in goals scored per game. Boston scores 3.27 goals per game while Toronto scores 3.17. Toronto has scored 79 goals on the season while Boston has scored 75. The funny thing is, that's pretty much where the similarities end.
Boston is much better defensively, which is a given. They've given up 47 goals this season, which is second to the Rangers at 46. That equates to 2.07 goals allowed per game which is good for second in the NHL. Toronto? They've allowed 75 goals this season and ranks 23rd in goals allowed per game, allowing just over 3 per match. That's mind blowing when you see that Toronto is leading the division and is tied for second in the conference with Florida. FLORIDA. TORONTO AND FLORIDA ARE IN THE TOP 3 IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE. Unreal.
In terms of specialty teams play, Toronto has the power play advantage over the Bruins, which is not a shock. The Bruins have been better on the power play this season than how they ended last season, but that's not saying much. Last season's power play was like a turd covered in ice cream sprinkles. Toronto is a top 3 team in terms of power play conversion, scoring on 22.8% of their chances. Boston? 13th overall at 17.5.
Boston, though, once again dominates the defensive numbers. Again, it's not surprising because Boston plays a tough defensive system while Toronto probably doesn't even practice defense. Boston is seventh overall in penalty kill, killing off 85.9% of the penalties they face. Toronto? 27th overall. You know what, that's at least a step up for them. The last preview I wrote against Toronto, they were dead last in penalty kill and not even above 70%. Now they're at 76.9%.
The reason Boston dominates Toronto is that Boston is able to impose their will and defensive system over a team that can't play defense. Plain and simple. After the jump, more preview goodness..