BOSTON -- When the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Bruins 3-2 at the ACC Centre in Toronto on March 23 it was their first win over Boston since March 19, 2011. Despite losing to the Bruins on the tail end of that home-and-home set two nights later at TD Garden, that win and the team's overall success, has the Leafs confident they can not only hang with the Bruins, but also upset them in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
"Obviously we understand that we could be the underdogs, but the way we see it is that we've beaten this team already this year," said Leafs forward Nazem Kadri following his team’s morning skate Wednesday. "We only finished four or five points behind them, it was a tight stretch towards the end. Obviously they're a good team, we've got to give them respect, but at the same time we're not approaching this as underdogs. This is a very, very winnable series for us."
Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle wasn’t that open about his confidence against the Bruins but agreed with Kadri that if the Bruins had a mental edge over the Leafs prior to that win, that’s not the case now. He and his players understand how good the Bruins can be, but by no means will they be respecting them too much.
“We’re going to respect the Bruins, but we’re not going to be in awe of them,” Carlyle said. “We’re trying to forge our own identity for the Toronto Maple Leafs and not what anyone has done historically. We have to live now. We have a task at hand that is a tall one and we have to meet the challenge head on.”
With both teams thriving off physicality, Carlyle knows the hits will be flying as each team tries to dictate the tone of Game 1 and essentially the series.
"The pace of the game will be as high as it's ever been," Carlyle said. "There will be bodychecks thrown, there will be bodies that will be projected into one another. It's going to be that type of atmosphere to start the game. It always is. The first-round series historically has been the most aggressive and that's what we're expecting. We're expecting the Boston Bruins to come out and try to hit and we expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to come out and try to hit. It's a physical series, a physical game."