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Red-hot Maple Leafs closing on Bruins ahead of potential playoff series

Boston Bruins Charlie Coyle and Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews Charlie Coyle and Auston Matthews - Getty Images

As the playoff picture comes into focus, the stage is set for what could be a dramatic finish in the Atlantic Division between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins.

The two rivals meet Monday night at Scotiabank Arena, where the mood surrounding one club is vastly different than the other.

The Maple Leafs trailed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division by 13 points on Feb. 1, but have since seen a late-season renaissance despite the five-game suspension of star defenceman Morgan Rielly and multiple injuries on the blueline.

The club went a perfect 5-0-0 without Rielly through Feb. 21, highlighted by Auston Matthews' 50th and 51st goal against the Arizona Coyotes. The team has won four of their past five for a 9-1-0 record in their past 10 games.

The team has seen contributions from their likely heroes in the team’s core four, but also from players such as Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi.

Timothy Liljegren returned to the blueline on Saturday night after missing two games with an undisclosed injury and skated 19:53 in the 4-3 win against the New York Rangers. However, the team lost recently acquired defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin to a head injury.

“I think it was just a good hockey game overall. We stuck with it once we grabbed the lead and then gave it up late, but we battled hard to win in the shootout,” Leafs captain John Tavares said following the game on Saturday. “It was just a great job by everyone sticking with it and getting two points, which are big at this time of year.”

The Bruins enter Monday night riding a more turbulent stretch of their season in comparison.

On Feb. 13, the Bruins sat atop the Atlantic with 74 points, four behind the Vancouver Canucks (78) for the league lead and were sporting a 6-3-1 record in their past 10. Since then, the Bruins have left a crack in the door for the Leafs, going 3-2-5 in that time, including a 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

While the Bruins have slipped, the Florida Panthers have surged alongside the Maple Leafs.

The Panthers are in the midst of a four-game win streak, are 9-1-0 in their past 10 and lead the National Hockey League with 86 points. They also hold a two-point advantage over the Bruins for the Atlantic Division.

Monday night's game also presents a potential preview of the first round of the playoffs.

The two teams have met twice thus far this season with the Bruins winning both games in overtime on Nov. 2 and Dec. 2.

When it comes to the postseason, the Maple Leafs and Bruins have had a one-sided history in recent years, with the B's bouncing the Maple Leafs in the quarter-finals in the 2012-13 season and back-to-back years in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The Leafs' most recent series win over the Bruins dates back to the 1959 semis, when they defeated the Bruins in seven games.

While the playoff positioning of both clubs has plenty of time to change before the postseason gets underway in late April, the Leafs and the Bruins will see a lot of each other this week as they clash again at TD Garden on Thursday.