What The Skate Podcast experts have been saying about Maple Leafs-Bruins matchup

Matt Kalman
November 15, 2019 - 1:25 pm

The Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will meet Friday for the third time this season.

The Atlantic Division and Original Six rivals have seen the competition between the two franchises ramp up the past two years with two seven-game playoff series between the Bruins and Leafs, both won by Boston.

It’s that rivalry that has made the Leafs the second-most talked-about team on The Skate Podcast this season after the Bruins.

Here’s a sample of what some of our expert analysts have said over the past couple months about the Maple Leafs.

On Nov. 14 we aired our interview with TSN analyst Jamie McLennan, and he was worried about the way the Leafs play in their own end:

“I worry about their defensive-zone structure. It’s been five years we’ve been talking about it. And to me that’s something that the Bruins were able to expose when they got into the playoffs.

“Now I know it went to Game 7, and honestly those teams match up pretty well as far as some skill and the goaltenders and all of that. You know I look at the Bruins structure when they’re on their game. To me structure protects players when they’re not having the best night, mentally or physically. And the Leafs, when they’re tired and they’re not on, they get exposed. And to me that’s something of the details of the game that have to get sorted out. So you know it’s still a work-in-progress in Toronto.”

Two weeks before, on the Oct. 31 edition of The Skate Podcast, NHL on NBC analyst Pierre McGuire had similar concerns about the Leafs:

“They take too many penalties, their endzone coverage isn’t good enough and their star players aren’t competing hard enough. Now to be fair, [Tuesday Oct. 29> against Washington, a lot of their star guys, especially Auston Matthews, were much better. But their endzone coverage is really a flawed system right now and they’re going to have to fix that.”

When Toronto Sun writer Lance Hornby joined The Skate Podcast, the Maple Leafs were battling through without John Tavares. They since got Tavares, Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott back from injury but lost Mitch Marner. Hornby was pretty sure the Bruins were in the Leafs’ heads and that might be the difference for a Toronto team that might have more talent:

“I would say Toronto made the most changes. I mean they put six or seven new guys in there. I think on paper the Leafs have made the changes they need to. But you know what, let’s face it, Boston’s still solid, Boston’s in their head, Boston has added some [guys>. You look at some of the guys that have come on their team the last couple of years, and the way [Charlie> McAvoy’s developed and Tuukka Rask, obviously a former Toronto goalie, if you want to go back to ancient history, has been quite the difference in this series going back with Toronto over the years.

“So you know what I would say never count on Boston even though I think Toronto has the better roster on paper.”

Going back to Oct. 17, the season was just a couple weeks old, but not much has changed. The Maple Leafs are a mediocre 9-7-4. Here’s what former Sportsnet analysts and NHL coach and general manager Doug MacLean told The Skate Podcast:

 “Look it was a good playoff series against Boston last year, they played hard. [Nazem> Kadri helped them get over the top, that was a monumental loss [when he was suspended>. They should be a real good team, they should be right in contention.

“But the bottom line is do they play the way you have to play at playoff time, and right now they haven’t shown me that they’re capable of that. Now will that change? Babcock’s been trying to drill in their head for three years. That’s got to change for them to play that sort of playoff-style game, and we’ll see if they do. But they’re a talented group, good team. I like things Kyle has done. Everyone wants to rip Babber now, but Babcock’s a good coach.”

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