Mike Babcock had to take solace in the fact that Toronto was going to have some favorable matchups up front going into yet another first-round series with the Bruins.
Adding a 47-goal scorer in John Tavares will do that for you, complimenting another top-six pivot in Auston Matthews and his 37 tallies on the season. However the matchups sorted themselves out, one of Babcock’s top-two centers were going to get their looks against whichever combination Bruce Cassidy was set to throw at them, while Toronto also had to like its chances with its third line of Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau and William Nylander.
Of course, there still remained the elephant in the room when it comes to toppling Boston — with the B’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak once again poised to pick apart a porous Leafs defense.
The Bergeron line did most of the heavy lifting during Boston’s seven-game triumph over Toronto last spring, totaling an absurd 31 points along the way. But last year is last year, right?
Well, even with Bergeron missing a pair of regular-season matchups against Toronto in 2018-19, the B’s top line still toyed with whatever top-six combination Babcock employed in an effort to slow them down.
This year, it’s been Tavares and his line that have handled most of the matchups against Bergeron — with Boston holding the edge in shot attempts (27-20), shots on goal (13-7) and goals (1-0) during 22:33 of 5v5 TOI in which No. 37 and No. 91 were out on the ice together during the regular season.
At some point, you have to just shake your head if you’re Babcock, right? After all, that’s what most NHL bench bosses have done after dealing with a four-time Selke winner in Bergeron and his dynamic wingers.
But for Thursday’s Game 1 matchup at TD Garden — a bout that once again featured Bergeron and Tavares going head to head — Babcock pulled the trigger on a couple of in-game adjustments.
The result? A 4-1 Leafs win, and the first time in a very, very long time that Bergeron and Co. have looked mortal against their Original Six foe.