Two Eastern Conference heavyweights go head-to-head on Sunday as the Boston Bruins host the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.
The much-anticipated fixture holds significance both in the Atlantic Division and overall NHL standings with each side aiming to win the division and also the Presidents' Trophy as the team with the best record in the regular season.
|What||Toronto Maple Leafs @ Boston Bruins|
|Where||TD Garden, Boston|
|When||00:00, Sunday 15th January|
|How to watch||NHL.com/Viaplay Sports|
|Odds||Toronto Maple Leafs 7/5, Boston Bruins 5/8|
With a 32-5-4 record and 68 points, the Bruins are currently nine points ahead of the Leafs (26-10-7).
Boston, 1/10 to Win the Atlantic Division and 10/29 to Win the Presidents' Trophy, have lost just once at home all season (19-1-3) but that defeat came in their last outing when they were shut-out 3-0 by the Seattle Kraken and the result diminishes their invincibility at TD Garden.
Toronto can take confidence from the first meeting between the two sides this season when they were able to contain the Bruins' deep offence and come out on top 2-1.
Auston Matthews was the Leafs' hero on that night in early November scoring twice, and they were forced to overcome adversity in goal as Ilya Samsonov was injured in the second period and, with Matt Murray also out, third choice Erik Kallgren was called upon to get the win.
The 25-year-old Matthews (20 goals, 27 assists) has missed Toronto's past two games through a "niggling" injury and his status for the Bruins game remains unknown.
Toronto's ability to limit Boston to one goal in the first game was particularly impressive considering the Bruins average the second most goals in the NHL at 3.76 per game. The Leafs aren't too far behind with an average of 3.35 per game (10th).
Both teams have been excellent defensively with Boston conceding the least goals in the league, averaging 2.15 per game and Toronto ranking third by allowing 2.61 on average per game.
The biggest discrepancy between the two is on special teams with Bruins possessing the league's third most potent powerplay at 28.0% and the best penalty kill at 86.1%.
The Leafs' powerplay is a healthy 24.3% which ranks ninth the NHL but their penalty kill is a lowly 17th at 78.2% and will be an area that the Bruins will look to exploit when given the opportunity.
Perhaps unfairly, the Leafs' goaltending tandem of Murray and Samsonov is still yet to totally convince despite the pair posting positive numbers.
Murray was acquired in the off-season from the Ottawa Senators and has a 11-4-2 record, .919 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average. Samsonov was signed shortly after as a free agent from the Washington Capitals and is 12-4-1 with a .914 save percentage and 2.33 GAA.
The pair have shared the load pretty evenly, and while both have given the Leafs a chance to win more often than not, neither has demanded the number one role which Bruins' Linus Ullmark has certainly done over Jeremy Swayman this season.
Like the Leafs' duo, Ullmark and Swayman played an equal role last season but with a 22-2-1 record, and a league leading .938 save percentage and 1.88 GAA, the more experienced Ullmark has left no doubt who the Bruins will call upon in the biggest games.
David Pastrnak is Boston's leading scoring threat with 58 points (fourth the NHL) and 32 goals (second). The 26-year-old is five goals behind Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid for the league lead and is 14/1 To Win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player. McDavid is 1/3 and the aforementioned Matthews, who won it last year, 33/1.
William Nylander is the Leafs' top-scorer and is on course to have a career-best scoring season with 22 in 43 games so far. Mitch Marner leads the Leafs in points with 50 (16 goals, 34 assists) which included a franchise all-time best run of 23 consecutive games with at least a point.
Brad Marchand (13 goals, 24 assists), Patrice Bergeron (13 goals, 24 assists), David Krejci (11 goals, 20 assists) and Jake DeBrusk (16 goals, 14 assists) have all offered excellent scoring support to Pastrnak but they aren't the only ones with players on all four of Boston's lines stepping up on different nights.
A close game is likely and Matthews' fitness will be much-talked about ahead of the face-off, as will who the Leafs turn to in goal.