Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins Not-So-Obvious X-Factor’s in Round One
Heading into their first-round series, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins each have three or four players that are the obvious candidates to be their team’s X-factor in the series. Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron are the obvious choices for the Bruins. Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Fredrick Andersen are the obvious choices for the Maple Leafs.
But what about a not-so-obvious X-factor? The Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins have a couple candidates that have the potential to make such a big difference in the series that they push their team into the second round. Below is the top candidate for each team.
Toronto Maple Leafs
One thing Toronto doesn’t have a lot of is playoff experience. They have three players who have never played a playoff game in the NHL (Andreas Johnsson, Josh Leivo, and Travis Dermott) and another 13 players who have played less than 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games. So, 18 of their 23-man roster aren’t what you’d call, playoff veterans. But they do have one player on their roster who has played 177 NHL playoff games and is fifth all-time in playoff points amongst active NHL players.
That man is Patrick Marleau.
Marleau is a playoff machine and he has proven to be clutch. If Toronto finds themselves needing a goal in this series, putting the puck on Marleau’s stick is a safe bet. He has a career shooting percentage of 14.9% in the playoffs which is good for the 114th best in NHL history and 13th best amongst active NHL players.
In his 177 NHL playoff games, Marleau also has 23 power-play goals and four shorthanded goals, so his dark horse X-factor potential comes in all three areas of the game.
Marleau is also one of the only players on the roster to have gone deep into the playoffs. With San Jose in 2015-16, Marleau and the Sharks went to the Stanley Cup Final, where they eventually lost in six games to the the Pittsburgh Penguins, who would go on to be repeat champions a year later. In 17 playoff runs with the San Jose, Marleau played 10 games or more eight times.
He’s experienced, he’s clutch, and he’s Toronto’s dark horse X-Factor.
But their dark horse X-factor isn’t a veteran. Their dark horse X-factor is Ryan Donato, who carries a whopping 12 NHL games under his belt. Donato scored 43 points in 29 games with Harvard University and when their season came to an end, he signed with the Bruins for Boston’s final 12 games.
In those 12 games, Donato scored 9 points and gave Boston depth that they were lacking with the absence of Rick and Riley Nash, who both missed the stretch run with head injuries. Boston doesn’t have the same depth that other playoff teams have, but Donato gives them an injection of youth and an offensive spark.
In a pretty surprising decision, Donato won’t dress in Game 1. Rick Nash is healthy and is taking Donato’s place with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. But when, and not if, Donato gets into the lineup, he’s definitely Boston’s front-runner to be the X-factor that isn’t anticipated.
The one thing keeping Donato out of the lineup, presumably, is his lack of experience on special teams. Donato isn’t a penalty killer and hasn’t shown himself to be a two-way player in his short period in the NHL, but his fellow teammates Tim Schaller and Danton Heinen are exactly that.
No matter who steps up in this first-round series, one thing is clear; it’s going to be a dynamic and fun best of seven series.
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