Each of the last two seasons have ended in heartbreak for the Toronto Maple Leafs with Game 7 defeats. Both times, the Leafs met their destiny inside the gates of TD Garden at the hands of the Boston Bruins. Will 2020 finally be the spring that the Maple Leafs get over the Bruins? The Leafs are poised to finally take that next step this season.
An eventful off-season has changed the complexion of the Maple Leafs, especially on the backend. Will that new dynamic make a difference?
(Previously in this series: The Montreal Canadiens)
D Tyson Barrie: The major addition of the summer, Barrie improves a relatively poor Toronto blueline. His mobility and first pass will be a great fit in Toronto, and he should run the point on the top powerplay. Barrie’s numbers will pop playing in this system.
D Cody Ceci: Ceci has warts to his game, but he’s a solid shutdown defender that should help on the penalty kill as well. Ceci will add the edge this Maple Leafs team has sorely lacked.
F Jason Spezza: The former face of the Senators will return to Ontario to play a depth role with the Maple Leafs. He’s not the star he once was, but Spezza can still play. He could thrive in an offensive role against softer opposition.
F Alex Kerfoot: The forgotten piece of the summer blockbuster with Colorado, Kerfoot is a solid secondary scorer. He’ll fit nicely in Toronto’s middle-six, adding depth.
F Pontus Aberg: Remember this name. Aberg has all the skill in the world but just hasn’t been able to consistently put it together. He’s a candidate for 10-15 goals if he can stick.
F Nazem Kadri: Kadri brought an edge and a defensive swagger that will be missed. The Leafs dealt from strength to address weakness.
D Nikita Zaitsev: Zaitsev burst onto the scene in 2016-17 but has struggled since. A change of scenery is good for both he and the Leafs.
D Jake Gardiner: Gardiner is a huge loss for the Leafs. Arguably their best defender over the last few seasons, his passing ability and steady offensive game will be missed.
Why They’ll Threaten The Bruins
These two teams have been separated by the thinnest of margins over the last two seasons. The Maple Leafs again improved over the summer, while an argument could be made the Bruins took a small step back.
Toronto now has a more balanced defense and a group better fit to win in today’s game. Their forward group also remains quite deep. William Nylander in camp and not playing catch-up will be a factor as well. Expect a strong rebound season from him.
The Leafs are a contender to win the Stanley Cup in 2020. Like it or not, GM Kyle Dubas has done enough to push his team ahead of the Bruins on paper. Will it matter? It’s starting to look like this might be the year Toronto finally passes Boston.
Final Point Prediction: 104 (2nd in Atlantic)