Boston Bruins

Bruins to play Leafs in first round of 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

One of the NHL's best rivalries takes center stage in Round 1.

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The Boston Bruins spent most of the 2023-24 NHL season atop the Atlantic Division standings, but they ultimately finished as the second-place team.

The Bruins lost 3-1 to the Ottawa Senators in their regular season finale Tuesday night at TD Garden, giving them 109 points (47-20-15) in 82 games. The Florida Panthers leapfrogged the Bruins for first place with 110 points as a result of their 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

Finishing second in the division might not be the worst outcome for the Bruins because instead of playing the battle-tested Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will face off against the rival Maple Leafs. The Panthers will play the Lightning in Round 1.

The Bruins have a seven-game win streak versus the Leafs dating back to last season. Boston swept the season series 4-0-0, including a pair of 4-1 victories -- one in Toronto and one in Boston -- back in early March.

The Bruins also have beaten the Leafs in each of their three playoff meetings this century. Boston emerged victorious over Toronto in the first round in 2013, 2018 and 2019. The 2013 series is particularly memorable because of the Bruins' historic third-period comeback and overtime heroics in Game 7.

Even though the Leafs are, at least on paper, a more favorable matchup for the Bruins, Toronto still presents plenty of challenges.

The Leafs are an elite offensive team, led by the league's leading goal scorer in Auston Matthews. The American-born center scored 69 goals this season, and he has tallied 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists) in 33 career games against the Bruins, including the playoffs.

The Bruins entered the 2023-24 campaign not expected to be a top contender in the East after losing several quality players last summer, including Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Tyler Bertuzzi, Dmitry Orlov and Connor Clifton.

But the Bruins exceeded expectations thanks to David Pastrnak's MVP-caliber performance, Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha stepping up in a top-six center role, and the goaltending being very good again, among other factors.

The Bruins have won only two playoff series since reaching the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, so there's plenty of pressure on the Original Six club to turn their latest regular season success into positive postseason results.

Game 1 of Bruins-Leafs is expected to be Saturday at TD Garden.

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