NHL Playoffs: Maple Leafs Face Bruins in Do or Die Situation

 

Game 5 in Boston, 7pm EST
Bruins Lead, 3-1
 

BOSTON -- Here we are: the Toronto Maple Leafs' first do or die game in nine years. If they defeat the Boston Bruins tonight, they live to play one more game. If they lose, it will be time to hit the golf course.

Let the jokes begin.

In all seriousness, this game is a big one for the city of Toronto and fans of the Maple Leafs. The last time people were so invested in the Blue and White was when the team sat above the Eastern Conference standings early in the 2011-2012 season only to crash and burn to a 13th place finish. Fans hope the team will come away with a better result but history isn't on their side this time around.

Some facts courtesy of The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle:

  • The Maple Leafs have won three of their last 15 games (20 percent) in Boston.
  • 151 of the 262 (58 percent) teams that have led an NHL playoff series three games to one have been victorious in Game 5.
  • 107 of the 164 (65 percent) teams that have led an NHL playoff series three games to one with home ice advantage have won Game 5.

The Maple Leafs' chances don't look so hot right now, just as they haven't all series long. The Bruins have been noticed as the favourites right from the beginning, something the Leafs have done their best to stop people from believing with strong play despite what a 3-1 series deficit might suggest.

But even though the Maple Leafs have struggled to beat the Bruins in Boston for quite some time, there is still reason to believe they will pull through tonight. This is a different Leaf roster than was presented to the Bruins in the majority of the past 15 Leaf games in Boston and the situation is entirely different. Also furthering the belief that the Leafs could come away victorious tonight is that they managed to pull out a victory in Game 2 in Boston and have since played at a relatively high level.

Toronto is ready for the competition the Bruins will present.

"I know what they’re saying in the other locker room," Joffrey Lupul said on Friday. "They want to finish us tonight, they don’t want to go back to Toronto and I would expect them to play really well tonight. But we should be the more desperate team so I look forward to a big effort from us tonight."

Rightfully so, the Bruins aren't underestimating the abilities of the Maple Leafs heading into the all-important Game 5. With James van Riesmdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel ready to explode at any second and with the likes of Dion Phaneuf and James Reimer holding down the back-end, the Leafs still aren't a team to be reckoned with.

"After that first game they've pretty much taken over the series ... played a lot better than we have," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "They're playing really hard. We got to battle just to keep up with them."

As van Riemsdyk shows us, though, the Maple Leafs want to make sure they don't get too far ahead of themselves.

"We'll find out a lot about what we’re made of by our effort tonight."

Follow Lukas on Twitter (@LukasHardonk) for Maple Leafs news, opinion and analysis.