I'm on a 5-3 run with NHL freebies in the postseason, and today I'm going to play the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Boston Bruins.
The kill shot is here and now. The Maple Leafs MUST win this game if they want to move to the next round, as the last place they want to play is in Boston for a Game 7.
Toronto split the first two here, but have confidence by beating the Bruins in 2 of 3 in Boston.
Today, the Maple Leafs are in a great spot to erase a wealth of misery when it comes to this rivalry.
It's been 15 years since the Maple Leafs last won a playoff series. Even worse, the last time the Maple Leafs beat the Bruins in the playoffs was 1959. That's 60 years of pain for an Original Six member.
Sure, Toronto coach Mike Babcock nailed it when he said: "the hardest game to win is the fourth game, to put the other team out." But the Maple Leafs are still stinging from last year's seven-game, series loss to the Bruins, and this could exact the demons and thrust Toronto forward with a slew of momentum since top-seeded Tampa Bay is out of the playoffs.
Auston Matthews will lead the attack today, on offense. Toronto's defense has been fine, shutting down Boston's special teams in Game 5, and limiting the secondary scoring the Bruins desperately need.
I don't know what happened to Boston's forecheckers, but they were non-existent on Friday, and that caused it some problems. By doing so, the Bruins also took themselves out of passing lanes, leaving Maple Leafs easier exits from the defensive zone and momentum heading into the attacking zone. When you give Matthews and company time to skate through the neutral zone, you're asking for trouble.
And with the crowd igniting the Toronto defense, I expect to see plenty of hardcore backchecking, and hardcore skating by the Maple Leafs.
You'll hear the big exhale in the NHL today, and it'll be from Toronto, where the Maple Leafs finally get out of the first round.