Leafs hoping to write a different script against Bruins
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Mitch Marner (16) shoots as Boston Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid (54) defends during second period NHL round one playoff hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, April 19, 2018. The Leafs open the NHL playoffs at TD Garden for the second consecutive spring Thursday, the same building where they fell in Game 7 of last year's opening round. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Joshua Clipperton, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, April 11, 2019 3:34PM EDT
BOSTON -- Nazem Kadri has plenty of bad memories inside TD Garden.
He's hoping this spring will be different.
The Maple Leafs centre and defenceman Jake Gardiner are the only two players remaining on Toronto's roster from the team's epic collapse against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2013 playoffs.
And both experienced similar pain when Toronto was ousted at the same stage last year.
"We've had that heartbreak and we understand what that feels like," said Kadri, who was suspended three games following a dangerous boarding penalty in last year's playoff opener. "We don't want it to happen again.
"We're going to do everything we can to hopefully change the outcome."
Toronto, which opens its third consecutive post-season push Thursday night, blew third-period leads in both Game 7 losses in Boston, but the trouble really started early in those series. The Leafs fell behind 3-1 in each matchup with the Bruins, and were blown out by a combined 12-4 score in Games 1 and 2 in 2018.
Auston Matthews says his team will be looking to be on the front foot from the start inside what will be a raucous and rabid TD Garden.
"We want to take the game to them, regardless of where it's being played," the Toronto centre said following today's morning skate. "We're extremely hungry.
"We all feel very ready for this challenge."
Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had a spring in his step as he began his availability with reporters, asking the two dozen media members assembled: "Are you guys fired up?"
Babcock was enthused by the first night of the playoffs where three road teams knocked off higher seeds.
"You see the excitement and the pace of the game," he said. "I always like starting the second night (of the post-season) so everyone gets a reminder just how good it is and how much fun it is."
The coach also stressed that a player like Matthews, who was held to just two points last spring against the Bruins and rightly or wrongly took a lot of criticism in the process, needs to be patient in these big moments.
"When you're a really good player, you're going to draw a ton of checking," Babcock said. "And you may go a long period of time with not getting what you like, which is goals and assists. You've just got to stay patient and keep winning faceoffs and stay on the (defensive) side. All it's about is your team winning.
"If you put a bunch of pressure on yourself, then you're getting in your own way."
Babcock added that Leafs centre John Tavares is a good example of a player that never gets too high or too low.
"Once you've had success at playoff time, and you've disarmed a bomb or found the key to the safe and you've figured out what happens, you just think you know how to make it happen," Babcock said. "Until you find that, though, you're in the same process as everybody else."
But for the Leafs to enjoy any success, they'll likely have to get the better of Boston's top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, who combined to torch Toronto for 30 points in the 2018 playoffs.
"They've got a lot of continuity, chemistry. (They've) been together for a long time," Tavares said. "They have a really good mix of things they do and they understand each other's game very well."