It’s to the surprise of no one it took seven games to determine the outcome of this series between the Bruins and Maple Leafs.
Experts around North America expected it, and even Bruins players have said they’re not surprised it took the same route as a season ago.
History suggests everyone had good reason to see this coming.
And, for the most part, the Bruins had reason to be fully prepared for what was to come.
“As coaches, we’ve tried to prepare them for situational things that are gonna happen on the ice, what they did well in Game 6 that we can try to correct and what we did well that we can keep building on,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
The last two times the B’s faced their Canadian rival in the postseason, it took the entire series length to find a winner. In 2013, the year the Bruins went to the Stanley Cup and fell to the Blackhawks, was as thrilling as it gets.
Toronto has held in a lead in the third period in both instances, but 2013 in particular looked like the Bruins wouldn’t get out of the first round.
That was the game in which the Bruins trailed 4-1 late in the game and it looked all but over before a late rally and a game-tying goal from Patrice Bergeron with 50 seconds left, and then the overtime winner to become the first team ever to win a Game 7 when down by three in the final period of regulation.
The second time around was more recent — last season when the B’s blew a 3-1 series lead, giving the Leafs the chance to come back and win the series on Garden ice.
That was Jake DeBrusk’s breakout moment, when he scored twice, including the game-winner in the third to send the Bruins to the second round in a season where they’d lose to Tampa Bay.
The 2019 version of the postseason rivalry went exactly as expected, and as history indicated, needing all seven games to decide a winner. And as long as the NHL playoff format remains the way it does, there are more chapters to be written, and maybe just as lengthy.
Chara makes history
Tuesday night was Zdeno Chara’s 13th Game 7 appearance, which tied an NHL record. Only Scott Stevens and Patrick Roy played in as many over their careers.
Two of those came against the Leafs, in the 2013 season and a year ago. He needs just one more to have played in the most in league history on his own. Hopefully for the Bruins, that comes this season.
A new Leaf
Toronto’s Game 7 history has been, in a word, dreadful.
Going into Tuesday night in Boston, the Maple Leafs had lost their past five Game 7s dating back to 1995, when they fell to the Blackhawks.
Since then, things haven’t gotten much better.
In addition to their last two series-ending defeats against the Bruins, the Maple Leafs also lost a Game 7 in 2003 against the Flyers — a 6-1 shellacking — and suffered a 2001 lost in the Eastern semifinals against the Devils, 5-1.
In fact, they lost by at least three in every game aside from the heartbreaking 2013 defeat in overtime, and had allowed at least five goals in each of them.