The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a position to advance to the second round for the first time in 15 years but will need to put forth their best effort of the playoffs to get by the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the best-of-seven series at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The Leafs are coming off a near perfect road victory in Boston on Friday, but the Bruins have displayed a nasty habit of bouncing back from adversity in Games 2 and 4 and will be looking to win in Toronto and send the first round series to a seventh and deciding game at TD Garden on Tuesday.
Toronto must avoid the pitfalls of starting slow and making defensive mistakes that had them chasing the Bruins for most of their loss in Game 4 and play with equal desperation because playing Game 7 in the building where their season has ended twice in six years is not an appetizing prospect.
2019 continues to be the year of the underdog. On Saturday, the Winnipeg Jets joined the list of Stanley Cup favorites to take an early exit, as they were eliminated in six games by the St. Louis Blues. The Calgary Flames bowed out to the wildcard Colorado Avalanche in five games, and the lower seeded Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars are in the same position as the Leafs; leading their first-round series 3-2 with Game 6 on home ice.
In the East, the shock waves are still being felt from the Columbus Blue Jackets four-game sweep of the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders sweep of Pittsburgh is still considered a bit of an upset in spite of New York has more points and home-ice advantage in the series, while the Cup champ Washington Capitals are the only favorite in position to advance after “surging” past Carolina 6-0 in Game 5 on Saturday.
The question now is whether the Leafs can take advantage of a playoff landscape that is playing out like 1993, where every 100+ point team except one were eliminated by the second round and three underdogs reached the final four.
Toronto is not expected to make any lineup changes for Game 6, but Boston may tweak theirs with their backs against the wall. David Backes played less than five minutes on Friday and did not see a shift in the third period, which could mean that Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy may re-insert fourth liners Joakim Nordstrom in place of the veteran winger.
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