NHL head coach gives interesting take on Bruins vs. Leafs playoff series

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The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, two of the top-five teams in the NHL during the regular season, will clash in what might be the most-anticipated first-round series of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The B's won a thrilling Round 1 series last year in a dramatic Game 7 win at TD Garden in Boston, where this year's matchup will open Thursday night.

The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun recently talked to two NHL head coaches from non-playoff teams about the first-round series in the Eastern Conference, and one of them had an interesting take on why Boston has an advantage entering Game 1.

“I think Toronto has a heck of a team, I think there’s going to be a tonne of pressure on them,” said head coach No. 2. “I don’t want to say dysfunctional but they’re not as organized as they need to be … I think when you look at Boston, I think to me Boston and Washington are your two teams in the East that have size, depth, heavy and hard, they have star power than can score. That’s a Toronto team with a lot of pieces but … I just think that the honest game that Boston plays and the depth that they have and how they’re structured, I think it will be a very competitive series but I think at the end, very similar to Washington’s qualities, Boston has guys that have been there and won. The Bruins can play any way. They can score, they can check very well, they’re well-structured, I just think they play playoff-winning hockey.’’

The Bruins might not have the same scoring depth as the Leafs, but you can make a strong case that Boston has the upper hand when it comes to the blue line and goaltending. The Bruins gave up 36 fewer goals than the Leafs during the regular season. The B's also have an undisputed edge in playoff experience, including several veterans with Stanley Cup-winning experience. The Bruins won the season series 3-1, too.

The key for the Leafs is to steal one of the first two games in Boston, and Toronto should have a good shot at accomplishing that considering its 23-12-6 record (fourth-best in the league) on the road. The Leafs got trounced in the first two games in Boston in last season's series, and that kind of deficit is not easy to overcome, especially for a young team. 

The Bruins are the favorites, and deservedly so, but this series will be a difficult one for Boston. The last two playoff matchups between these rivals both went seven games, and it wouldn't be a shock if this one went the distance as well.

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