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Five Q’s: Bruins-Maple Leafs preview

May 1, 2013, 11:12 AM EDT

Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs handles the bouncing puck against the Boston Bruins during the game on March 7, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
(March 6, 2013 - Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

1) How will James Reimer handle the pressure of his first playoff series?

From Roberto Luongo to Miikka Kiprusoff, there have been rumors since last summer about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ interest in acquiring a goaltender that would likely take the number one gig away from 25-year-old netminder James Reimer. Those trade possibilities never materialized and Reimer ended up having a good season after dealing with concussion issues in his 2011-12 sophomore campaign. However, he has no playoff experience and is being asked to take center stage in front of an excited and hungry fanbase. Getting Reimer some postseason experience now should prove to be very beneficial for him in the long run, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a big question mark heading into this series.

2) Does Boston have anything left in the tank?

Due to postponed contests, the Boston Bruins were forced to play six games in the final nine days of the regular season. On top of that, they were 2-5-2 in their final nine games. Fatigue could be a big factor for the Bruins in the early part of this series and might aide in Toronto’s efforts to at least split the first two contests in Boston. The Bruins’ lack of momentum already cost them the Northeast Division. A quick playoff exit would be a shock — especially at the hands of the Leafs — but the B’s don’t want to give their opponents any extra confidence.

3) Will Zdeno Chara shut down Phil Kessel?

Forward Phil Kessel is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ greatest weapon…except against his old team, the Boston Bruins. Kessel had no points and a minus-four rating against Boston this season, and those numbers don’t get much prettier when you look at his career stats versus the Bruins. So can he put all that behind him and be the difference in this series? On the flip side, what should we expect from Zdeno Chara? Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli admitted to CSN New England that the towering defenseman has been slipping lately and needs “to get his game back.”

4) Will Milan Lucic regain his scoring touch?

Speaking of struggling Boston Bruins’ players, forward Milan Lucic hasn’t exactly had a memorable season. He found the back of the net just seven times in 46 games and even ending up spending some time in the press box as a healthy scratch. At the same time, Lucic has three points and a fight in his last two games, so maybe he’s turned a corner. The Bruins have other offensive weapons, but if Lucic doesn’t perform, that will seriously hurt the potency of their top two lines.

5) Will Jaromir Jagr be a difference-maker?

Jaromir Jagr might be 41 years old, but he’s still finding ways to produce. He had 16 goals and 35 points in 45 contests this season and, most importantly, has shined even while most of his teammates have struggled. Additionally, the fact that Martin Brodeur is the only active player who has been in more postseason contests than Jagr has to be a benefit, even on a team with as much playoff experience as the Bruins. Jagr can’t carry the team, but he could certainly be one of its leaders. All the same, it’s concerning that he’s now played in 34 Czech League games on top of the NHL’s condensed schedule. The fatigue factor that might haunt the Bruins could hit him particularly hard.

For all the first-round playoff previews, click here.

  1. hockeywithdrawal - May 1, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    I throw Kadri’s name out there as a question mark too, in his NHL post-season debut. Hoping the Leafs surprise them.

  2. tfaltin - May 1, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    X-factor: JVR. The Bozak-Lupul-Kessel will see the Chara-Seidenberg combo all game, every game. If JVR and Kadri can produce against Boston’s second pairing (and I think they will) this series will go much deeper than Boston fans want. That fatigue might also catch up with Tuukka. His durability has surprised me so far this year, but don’t look farther than last night to see what affect a compressed schedule can do to a goalie’s groin.

    • nunan - May 1, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      JVR and Kadri will probably be matched up against Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin, one of the best defensive lines in hockey.

  3. nunan - May 1, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    Looks like the Bs may be sitting Hamilton, Peverley, and Soderberg. Whodathunk?

  4. micklethepickle - May 1, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Am I the only one who noticed that 4 of the 5 questions are whether Boston will blow it? This is a 4 seed vs a 5 seed…. yet it seems like people are giving the Isles a better shot against the Pens than the Leafs against an undeniably sinking Bruins squad. What’s with that? Is there ANYONE that follows hockey that really believes the Bruins are an impressive team right now? They’ve been awful for the last month!

    • fubar77 - May 1, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Mick…I bleed black and gold, but I have to agree with all of your points…sadly. B’s need to kick in gear if they don’t want be on the links in a week or two. Come on B’s let’s go!

    • nunan - May 1, 2013 at 2:31 PM

      I noticed that, too. I am all for the Bruins but maybe PHT/NBC is catering to the American viewer, like TSN caters to Canadian viewers. I don’t know…shot in the dark. It would be an upset though if the Leafs win. There is no doubt that the Bruins are expected to win.

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