Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Five reasons the Maple Leafs are definitely winning tonight (and also five reasons the Bruins definitely are)

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins face off tonight in the only Game 7 showdown of the opening round. It’s been a roller-coaster series, one that started with a pair of blowouts and then transformed into a nail-biter, with a key suspension, a surprise injury and more than a few subplots along the way.

Now it comes down to one game, and you’re looking for a prediction. Well, we’ve got you covered. Here goes: One of these teams will win.

Oh, you were looking for something more specific. But here’s the thing: In the salary cap era NHL, any one game is pretty much a coin flip. A slightly weighted coin, maybe, but still a coin flip. Either one of these teams could win, by a lot or a little, and it wouldn’t come as much of a shock.

But that’s not what fans of either team are looking for, so here’s a compromise. Today, we’ll look at five reasons why Bruins are definitely going to win tonight. And we’ll also offer up five more reasons why the Maple Leafs are an absolute lock. Pick the ones you like best, and then ignore the others. Or even better, wait until the game is over and then come back and only read the ones from the winning team.

Either way, we’re guaranteed to be right. And also wrong. But mostly right.

The Bruins will win because: They’ve been the better team in the series

We’ll start with the simplest factor: Through six games, the Bruins have been the better team.

Not from start to finish, and not necessarily for every game. But overall, it’s fairly clear that the Bruins are outplaying the Maple Leafs. Pick any measure, from goals scored to shots to possession to expected goals, and the Bruins have the edge. It’s not always a big edge, and the Maple Leafs have certainly had their moments. But on balance, the Bruins have been better.

That may not mean much in a seventh game. Hockey isn’t fair, and we’ve seen plenty of series where the best team didn’t win, often in cases where the margin was much bigger than in this one. But if you’re trying to figure out who’s going to win a single game, the easiest question to ask is “Who’s been better so far?”

In this series, the answer is Boston.

The Maple Leafs will win because: They’re getting stronger as they go

The Bruins have been the better team in the series, sure. But that includes the first two games, which Boston dominated. Since then, things have been far more even. Granted, those first two wins count just as much as any others, but the trend in the series is clear – Toronto’s been getting better, while Boston peaked early.

That’s not to say that the scales have tipped in Toronto’s favour, because they haven’t – even in losing the last two, the Bruins controlled play for long stretches, and there hasn’t been a single game in this series where you could say the Leafs were clearly the better team. But they’re headed in the right direction, and the third period of Monday’s Game 6 was probably their best of the series so far.

Momentum is overrated in pro sports, and it would take one early Bruins goal to put the Leafs right back on their heels. But if you’re trying to predict what will happen tonight, a pair of blowouts from almost two weeks ago doesn’t tell you all that much. You want to let some recency bias creep in, and the gap between these two teams has been getting smaller as we go. If the trend continues, tonight might be the night that the pendulum finally swings over to the Leafs’ side.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

1 comment:

  1. The team that will win tonight will be the Original Six team with the Scandinavian goalie and that Phil Kessel once played for. You heard it here first! (Shout out to old-school DGB).