A handful of teams have already advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Boston Bruins could join those teams tonight. All it’s going to take is one more victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Boston Garden.
As the two Original Six franchises head into Game 5, it’s been an almost one-sided series, with the Bruins leading three games to one and outscoring the Leafs 17-9. With the exception of their Game 3 loss, the B’s are basically scoring goals at will, and Tuukka Rask has been phenomenal in the net, giving flashbacks to his Vezina season. All signs are pointing to Boston moving on in the playoffs, continuing their quest for the Cup against (most likely) the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Sound familiar? It should.
This is the exact same scenario the Bruins and Leafs found themselves in during the opening round of the 2013 playoffs. In that series, the Bruins held a 3-1 lead and seemed destined for the second round … until all hell broke loose when the series ran wild and straight to a soul-crushing Game 7 defeat for Toronto.
Five years later, is history going to repeat itself? With a chance to complete the task this time around and officially avenge what happened in 2013, do the Maple Leafs have the Bruins right where they want them?
The First Time Around – 2013 Revisited
The first round meeting between Boston and Toronto in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs isn’t far off the minds of either fan base. The series was on the verge of being a collapse of epic proportions for the Bruins, but instead, it wound up as one of the biggest Game 7 meltdowns of all time for the Maple Leafs.
How did it happen exactly?
Up 3-1 in the series heading into Game 5 at home, the Bruins appeared to be poised and primed for the second round of the playoffs. Then suddenly, the Leafs decided they weren’t going to go quietly, winning 2-1 in Game 5 in Boston, then winning 2-1 again in Game 6 in Toronto to force a Game 7.
Suddenly it was a brand new series, but now, Toronto had all of the momentum. The tone of the series had completely shifted, and when the Leafs found themselves leading 4-1 in the third period of Game 7, now it seemed as if they were destined for the next round instead.
Until suddenly, they weren’t.
In the back half of the third period, the Bruins fired back with three goals to tie the game 4-4, with the last two goals coming in the final two minutes. Patrice Bergeron then scored the game-winner in overtime, stealing the win 5-4 for the Bruins to send them to the next round, and ending Toronto’s season in the most gut-wrenching fashion imaginable.
For fans of the Maple Leafs, it was the ultimate devastation. Seeing your team lose in a Game 7 is as difficult as it gets as a hockey fan, but this wasn’t just a typical Game 7 defeat. This was an absolute obliteration of the soul.
A Chance to Exorcise Some Maple Leafs’ Demons
Five years later, in the first round of the 2018 playoffs, both the Bruins and Maple Leafs are in the exact same situation they were in 2013. Boston holds a 3-1 lead in the series heading into Game 5, which will be played at the TD Garden.
Essentially, the Maple Leafs have been given a second chance to exorcise their demons from five years ago. They can right the wrong and avenge their 2013 misery by winning three straight, and this time, putting the Bruins away in Game 7.
It won’t be easy, as they will have to find a way to win in front of a raucous Boston crowd in Game 5, then win again at home in Game 6, then get ANOTHER win in Boston in Game 7. But for the Toronto fans out there who desperately want to get payback for that humiliating 2013 defeat in the most poetic way possible, the argument can be made that the Leafs have the Bruins right where they want them.
The only question is, can they finish the job this time around?
Cody Rivera is a sports writer covering the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers, as well as a contributor to SB Nation’s PatsPulpit.com. In addition to the Bruins, Cody is also a devoted fan of the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. Send Cody an email at firstname.lastname@example.org