5 key players for Bruins-Maple Leafs Game 7

Matt Kalman
April 22, 2019 - 1:43 pm

The Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs have now played six games in the Eastern Conference first round with each team winning three games, and neither team winning consecutive games.

When the final buzzer sounds to end Game 7 of the series on Tuesday at TD Garden, there will be heroes and there will be zeroes. The heroes get to go to the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets; the zeroes get to explain why their team was eliminated after just one round.

Here’s a look at the five key players that could determine whether the Bruins or Maple Leafs will meet the Blue Jackets:

1. Auston Matthews

It took him a while, but the Maple Leafs superstar has made up for his one-goal performance in last year’s seven-game series and his slow start in this year’s series. He now leads all players with five goals in the series, plus he has one assist. With John Tavares’ line and Patrice Bergeron’s line playing to a stalemate most nights, what Matthews does or doesn’t do against the Bruins’ other lines could determine the outcome of Game 7.

2. Frederik Andersen

The Maple Leafs gave Andersen a 4-3 lead to protect in the third period of Game 7 last year. And then he squandered it, allowing goals to Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak – all at even strength. The Maple Leafs didn’t spend $5 million a year on a goalie that can’t end their playoff-series win drought, which dates back to 2014. Andersen has to come up big in Game 7.

3. Tuukka Rask

If you’re going to talk about Andersen, then you have to talk about Rask. He won that Game 7 last year, making 20 saves on 24 shots. He made eight saves on eight shots in the third period. He just won a potential elimination game with 22 saves in Game 6. But imagine if a guy who’s judged only on the number of Stanley Cups he’s won loses in the first round. It’ll be open season on Rask if the Bruins don’t pull through.

4. David Pastrnak

The Maple Leafs killer from one year ago has been somewhat quiet in this series. He saved the Bruins' season with two goals in Game 4 but those are his only goals. He had two assists in Game 6, so he might be heating up. The Bruins’ most dynamic offensive player could make it easier on everyone if he again gets the hot hand.

5. Zdeno Chara

The captain is 5-7 in his NHL career in Game 7s -- 5-5 as a Bruin. He can move over .500 with a win, but more importantly he can prove the Bruins aren’t wrong to continue re-signing him post-40 years old by being the shutdown defender that stops Tavares, Matthews and Toronto’s other high-end skill players from even testing Rask. It’s not worth continually returning rather than retiring if the Bruins are just going to go home after one round.

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Related: Dale & Keefe discuss whether Bruins, Maple Leafs facing more pressure heading into Game 7