The Toronto Maple Leafs are ready to host their first of a two-game home stand tonight as they prepare for the Boston Bruins in round 2 of the regular season schedule. The two teams have quite the history dating back to the Original Six, but it's mostly the recent events of both clubs in the last half decade that makes any match-up between these two one to mark on the calendar for players and fans alike.
The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt Tuukka Rask to the Bruins in 2006 for Calder Trophy winning goaltender Andrew Raycroft. Ultimately "Razer" didn't work out, and Tuukka continues to be a A2 netminder for the Bruins.
In September of 2009, the Leafs acquired Phil Kessel for what is now Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight, and Dougie Hamilton. Fans debated whether the sure-bet annual 30-goal sniper Kessel was of fair value in return for former 2nd overall pick Seguin and a pair of solid prospects. That debate continues today, as both Kessel and Seguin are mainstays on their respected teams, but it has somewhat quieted after Brian Burke concluded the trio of trades with a deal for a puck-carrying defenceman.
In February of this year, the Leafs sent Tomas Kaberle to the Boston Bruins for a first round pick (which they used to move up and select Stuart Percy), Joe Colborne (who currently leads the AHL in points) and a conditional 2nd round pick if the Bruins make the Stanley Cup Finals - they did. The Leafs then sent that freebie selection to the Avalanche for defenceman John-Michael Liles, who currently has 9 points in 13 games as a Leaf. Kaberle, on the other hand, now plays for the Carolina Hurricanes and has 2 assists through 13 games.
Whether the Bruins won the Kessel trade or the Leafs won the Kaberle trade (Bruins got a Stanley Cup out of it) is now irrelevant. What matters now is how those pieces perform for each club, and right now neither side can argue with their players.
Phil Kessel currently leads the NHL in both goals (10) and points (21). Tyler Seguin leads the Bruins in points (11 in as many appearances) despite the club sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference. What the two teams can argue about is their place in the standings, though two seasons ago the Leafs did finish second last.
The Bruins are now getting a taste of that circumstance, as despite both goaltenders posting above 0.900 SV%, respectively, the club simply can't outscore their problems. Their powerplay success rate is a dismal 13%, marking them 25th in the league, so any man-advantage opportunity rarely ever pans out to even out the playing field.
The Bruins hold a 33% success rate when scoring first in a game. So if the Bruins open the scoring tonight, there's a 66% chance they will lose. Here's where it gets scarier for Bruins fans. When the Leafs get SCORED ON first, they have won EVERY game.
When Toronto is leading after the first period, they've won every game. The Bruins have a 50% success rate when leading after the first, BUT if leading after the second period, both teams have a 100% success rate.
One aspect of the Leafs that can be taken into account tonight is the face-off performance of David Steckel. When Steckel wins over 60% of his draws, the Leafs have never lost. That said, the Bruins have the highest face-off winning percentage in the league, and if it proves successful tonight, getting ownership of the puck first off the draw could be the story of the game for a Bruins victory. But that's a big if considering all the other team performance stats.
Nonetheless, the puck drops tonight, and it's sure to be a heavy-hitting one. Expect nothing short of excitement in this Original Six battle.
---If you haven't already, check out the first video episode of a series called A Minute With Murrey, which showcases a press conference with Brian Murrey as he discusses current NHL events that are always linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
---Also, be sure to read up Ron Guillet's review of whether or not Jonas Gustavsson is an adequate back-up goaltender for the Leafs.