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Special teams sinking Maple Leafs against Bruins


The Toronto Maple Leafs will have to improve their special teams if they're going to defeat the rival Boston Bruins and advance to the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back years. 

After a strong regular season on the power play, the first three games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a different story. 

Out of 16 teams, the Leafs, who trail the Bruins 2-1 in their first-round series, rank third last in both power play and penalty kill efficiency.

Maple Leafs' Special Teams Struggles in Playoffs

Stat Maple Leafs Bruins
PP Goals Scored 1 (9.1%)  5 (50%) 
PP Goals Allowed 5 (50%)  1  (90.9 %) 

Captain John Tavares has scored the lone goal on the man advantage for the Maple Leafs while winger Jake DeBrusk has three for the Bruins in addition to Brad Marchand and Morgan Geekie, who both have one. 

After struggling on the man advantage down the stretch of the regular season, the Bruins balanced out their power-play units for the postseason. 

"Splitting up the units created inner competition," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. "It also freed people's minds of, 'I have to get the puck to Pasta,' or 'I've got to get the puck to Marchand.' It was the same old, same old. Now, it is fresh."

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe says his team needs to do a better job on the penalty kill. 

"We just have to do a better job of the details," explained Keefe. "If you break down each goal, it is a different mistake at different times. It hasn't been the same thing. It has been different things that have led to goals against. We have to find a way through that."

Toronto's power play numbers are a stark contrast to the regular season as the Maple Leafs had one of the best power play units in the NHL. 

Maple Leafs' Regular Season Special Teams

Stat Maple Leafs Bruins
PP% 24% (7th in NHL) 22.2% (14th in NHL) 
PK%  76.9% (23rd in NHL)  82.5% (7th in NHL)

It was the Auston Matthews show on the power play during the regular season as he scored 18 of his 69 goals, good enough for fifth in the league. 

The absence of star winger William Nylander has been evident as the 27-year-old Swede ranked second on the team with 11 power-play tallies. 

Mitch Marner netted eight goals on the man advantage in 2023-24, but hasn't made much of an impact so far in the playoffs with just one assist and four shots over three games. 

A return to the lineup for Nylander and Marner improving his play could go a long way in helping the Maple Leafs defeat the Bruins in the playoffs for the first time since 1959.

The Maple Leafs, who have lost six straight playoffs series to the Bruins, will look to even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece in Saturday's Game 4 at Scotiabank Arena.