5 things Bruins need to do to close out Maple Leafs in Game 5 (2024)


"We're gonna see how much we've learned.”

5 things Bruins need to do to close out Maple Leafs in Game 5 (1)

By Conor Ryan

Brad Marchand doesn’t want to hear about 2023.

After relinquishing a 3-1 series lead in their crushing first-round exit against the Panthers last April, the Bruins captainisn’t dwelling on a similar scenario brewing for his team.

“We have a different group. A lot of new guys, different team, it’s a completely different season,” Marchand said after Boston took a 3-1 series lead against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night. “Nothing about that has anything to do with this series. … We’ve done a great job of staying in the moment. And that’s what you have to do.”


The Bruins have controlled significant stretches of this first-round matchup against the Maple Leafs, especially away from 5-on-5 play.

But even with Toronto reeling off of two losses in itsownbarn at Scotiabank Arena, the Bruins are expecting a spirited pushback from a Leafs team on the brink of elimination in Game 5.

“They always say it’s the hardest one to win, right? No matter what, the closing game,” Pat Maroon noted. “So I think for us, we just got to stick to the same process that we’ve been doing.”

Here are five things the Bruins need to do to close out their first-round series against Toronto on Tuesday night.

Ride the hot hand innet

There’s a compelling case to be made for the Bruins starting Linus Ullmark in Game 5 on Tuesday.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner hasn’t appeared in a game since April22,andwas far from the reason why Boston dropped its only matchup of this series in Game 2.Turning to Ullmark should give Boston a sizable edge over whichever goalie Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe trots out, be it Ilya Samosnov or Joseph Woll.


If the Bruins win with Ullmark inneton Tuesday, they have both netminders feeling good about their respective games entering what could be a taxing second-round showdown with the Panthers.

And even if Ullmark falters on Tuesday, Boston has the luxury of going back to Jeremy Swayman in Game 6 in Toronto.

But even if Boston’s goalie rotation has yielded strong returns all season long, Swayman’s dominance against Toronto has been the true equalizer in this series. And with a staggered Maple Leafs team entering Game 5 already on the ropes, Jim Montgomery and his team should go for the knockout punch with Swayman once again.

Speaking on Monday, Ullmark offered his support for Swayman as he’s asserted himself as Boston’s go-to option against Toronto.

“I don’t think therereallyis a plan. Same thing, just take it day by day, and Sway has been playing tremendously,” Ullmark said of Boston’s goalie reps. “I have a lot of faith in that fella and I’m very happy for him, obviously.

“And that’s what I try to do as well — stay positive and supportive of him. Because if I don’t support my guy, I’m not supporting the team. And if I’m not supporting the team, I’m not supporting him. So it kind of goes hand in hand with that sort of situation.”


As intriguing as it might be to roll with Ullmark as the series’ closer, it’s tough to ignore Swayman’s stats against the Leafs’ high-powered offense. Swayman has won all six of his matchups against Toronto during the 2023-24 season, sporting a .957 save percentage along the way.

A couple of huge stops from Swayman. pic.twitter.com/HXmhDEsbsn

— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 25, 2024

The Bruins could easily go back to a regular goalie rotation in the second round of the playoffs — giving both Ullmark and Swayman equal opportunity to gain traction against a new opponent.

But against this Toronto team? The Bruins need to sweep the leg and go with the goalie that has made life miserable for the Leafs all year.

“There’s a reason why I’m here today and it’s not being a sulky little crybaby about not playing or anything like that,” Ullmark said. “I try to stay professional, supporting the guys throughout the period here. Go out there every practice, try to be better, try to push people in the way that I canandtry to bring that energy and try to do whatever I can.”

Lock down thenetfront

Swayman has dominated between the posts for Boston against the Maple Leafs. But Boston’s defensive structure also didn’t give Toronto’s high-powered offense all that much on Saturday night.

“I think our sticks have significantly been better, especially in the D zone,” Jim Montgomery said Monday. “I think our time and space has been better up ice. I think our neutral zone forecheck has gotten better.”


Even with the expected surge orchestrated by Toronto in the third period of Game 4, the Maple Leafs only generated six high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 play Saturday — with Boston holding a 27-6 edge in blocked shots.

5 things Bruins need to do to close out Maple Leafs in Game 5 (2)

Both Swayman and Ullmark give Boston a decided edge innet. But the Bruins can make their goalies’ jobs much easier if they continue to limit how many quality chances Toronto can generate in front of them.

“They try and funnel a lot of pucks to the net front,” Brandon Carlo said of Toronto’s offensive approach. “So we did a good job converging to our net front and keeping them to the outside, that starts kind of off the rush, not allowing them to make those plays to the middle and get you kind of pushed into that area. So I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

Slowing down Toronto in the neutral zone

Playoff series are often won by whichever team lands the most welts along the boards. But the Bruins have routinely frustrated Toronto in this series by clogging up the neutral zone — rather than doling out damage on the forecheck.

Even though Toronto is not necessarily a rush-first offense, the Bruins have made things difficult for the Maple Leafs when it comes to gaining any sort of steam at center ice. As noted by Stathletes’s Meghan Chayka, the Bruins have recorded 19 pass interceptions in the neutral zone against Toronto — the third-most among the 16 teams currently in the playoffs.

puck management in the neutral zone #LeafsForever vs. #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/VSTBVScDpy

— Meghan Chayka (@MeghanChayka) April 29, 2024

Active sticks and an emphasis on pressuring puck carriers will be key for Boston as it hopes to snuff out Toronto’s offense once again.


“I think our neutral zone has done a good job of kind of clogging up their offense here,” Maroon noted. “But I think, honestly, it’s all about turnovers in this game, especially against that team. If you turn the puck over against them, they’re just going to create offense, they’re gonna find ways to kind of throw it down your throat, right?

“So I think our puck play and our puck decisions have been really good. And just kind of limited that. They’re a very good team, and they’re gonna keep pushing, and just got to find a way to keep sticking to that.”

Win the special teams battle

The Bruins still have more to give when it comes to generating quality scoring chances from Grade-A ice against Toronto, especially at 5-on-5 play. But so long as the Bruins keep capitalizing on special teams, this series could be put on ice after just five games.

Despite a sustained slump entering the postseason, the Bruins have cashed in on six of their 13 power-play opportunities against the Leafs, while Toronto is just 1-for-14 on their man advantage through four games.

Brad Marchand connects on the power play.

2-0 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/zw3A3xBkiz

— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 28, 2024

With Auston Matthews far from a lock for Game 5 due to an extended illness, Toronto’s ailing power play might also be without its top triggerman for an elimination game.

“The two units get things done,” David Pastrnak said of Boston’s power play. “We got some big goals from [Brad Marchand’s] unit. So it’s getting done. So it doesn’t matter if you have one or two units as long as you get the job done on the PP, that’s a success.”

Staying in the moment

An anticipated second-round rematch with the Panthers sits on the horizon.


But much like last April, the Bruins can’t get caught up at the next task at hand, not with a desperate Leafs team taking to the TD Garden ice on Tuesday night.

“There’s a lot of guys in our room that have gone through it just a little while ago,” Montgomery said of Boston dropping a series after holding a 3-1 lead. “And it hurt. We’re gonna see how much we’ve learned.”

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5 things Bruins need to do to close out Maple Leafs in Game 5 (2024)
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