On May 13, 2013, we all collectively sank into our couch cushions as Patrice Bergeron flipped the puck over a fallen James Reimer to complete an unfathomable game seven comeback for the Boston Bruins, and send our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs home defeated. On that night, many in Leafs Nation developed some deep scar tissue that haunts them to this day. Like a jilted lover who has been cheated on by an ex and now believes that everyone will do the same, we believe that every time the Leafs meet the Bruins, especially in the playoffs, it will end the same way. It’s time to get some therapy, get back out there and realize that just because it happened then (and okay last year too but hear me out), doesn’t mean it will happen now. Here is a list of reason why the 2013 loss to the Bruins is completely irrelevant to anything that may happen in 2019
1. The teams have changed.
In the case of the Leafs, there are only two holdovers from the lockout shortened 2013 season, Nazem Kadri, and Jake Gardiner, both of whom were 22 years old, with less than 100 games of NHL experience at the time, and weren’t exactly players that Randy Carlyle was leaning on to play huge minutes down the stretch on that fateful night, although Kadri did have a goal and an assist in the game. Boston has a few more players remaining, with five, six if you include Torey Krug, who didn’t play in game 7 but were on the roster. The remaining Bruins were almost all key players in the outcome with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask all playing important roles for the team then and now. Still these are almost completely new rosters at this point, complete with new coaches, general managers, even new national anthem singers. The Leafs even have a new logo! Aside from the seven players mentioned above, the only thing that remains the same are the team names and locations.
2. The Leafs have regularly beaten the Bruins since 2016-17
Of the 12 regular season meetings between the Leafs and Bruins since the debuts of Nylander, Marner, and Matthews, the Leafs have won eight. It’s unclear where the myth that the Leafs can’t beat the Bruins came from, but it’s exactly that, a myth. It seems as though it may have gained some steam because of the four losses in that time frame, three of them were particularly ugly. There was the 4-1 defeat in Boston last year where Mike Babcock insisted on matching Auston Matthews against Patrice Bergeron, and it did not go well. There was a 5-1 defeat earlier this year where the Leafs played what amounted to a scheduled loss on the second half of a back to back traveling to Boston to face a rested Bruins team, and there was an inexplicable 6-3 beatdown that probably wasn’t as close as the score indicated about a month ago in Boston. Throw in a couple of ugly playoff defeats (huge…know, I know) at TD Garden last year, and we have ourselves a genuine complex growing here. The one thing that these losses have in common is that they’ve all occurred in Boston. As it currently stands, the Leafs would have home ice advantage in a playoff matchup with the Bruins, and Toronto has won six of eight home games against the Bruins including playoffs in this time span.
3. Teams often “Reverse the Curse”
Going into last year’s playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins had beaten the Washington Capitals in two straight playoffs, both series had gone seven games, and Pittsburgh found a way to move on. Sound familiar? Well, with few people actually giving them a chance, the Washington
Capitals found a way to slay the dragon and beat Pittsburgh, advancing past their nemesis and ultimately going on to win the Stanley Cup. In 2016, the San Jose Sharks had been eliminated in consecutive playoff appearances by the Los Angeles Kings, in 2013 and 2014. When the two teams met in the first round of the 15-16 playoffs, many expected more of the same, however the Sharks handily defeated the Kings in five games en route to a Stanley Cup finals appearance. Does this mean the Leafs will definitely knock the off the Bruins if they meet again in this year’s playoffs? No, but it proves that teams regularly manage to overcome a foe that has had their number in the past.
The Boston Bruins are a good hockey team, and they will certainly be difficult for anyone, including the Toronto Maple Leafs to take down in a playoff series, where anything short of murder will essentially go unpunished by officials. This doesn’t negate the fact that the Bruins are not some mythical bugaboo, sent by an ancient medicine man to curse the Leafs from experiencing playoff glory. They’re a good hockey team, just like they were in 2013, but that’s the main similarity between then and now. The difference is, in 2013 the Leafs were overmatched in every way, whereas now, they’re essentially equals, battling the Bruins tooth and nail for home ice advantage when the seemingly inevitable playoff matchup arrives. John Tavares vs Patrice Bergeron, Mitch Marner vs David Pastrnak, Society vs Brad Marchand, these are glorious power on power matchups. There are many questions that need to be answered before the outcome of a Leafs/Bruins series is known. Can Andersen outduel Rask? Can Matthews and Nylander find their scoring touch against Boston now that they won’t see as much of Chara? Will Morgan Rielly’s dynamic offensive flair be a blessing, or a curse? Can Jake Gardiner find redemption after his brutal game seven last season. Can Nazem Kadri Keep his head on straight, and exploit the more sheltered matchups he’s likely to see now that Tavares is a Leaf. Will Mike Babcock out coach Bruce Cassidy? Can the Leafs finally get over the hurdle that’s plagued them for six years now? Will the “It was 4-1” joke finally die the horrible death it deserves? To paraphrase something that a wise man recently said, they can, and it will.