The odds don’t look particularly good.
Not only have the Toronto Maple Leafs won just three of their last 15 games here at TD Garden, but there’s also some deeper history at work, too, with most teams in the Boston Bruins situation finding a way to close out series in the fifth game.
Of the 262 teams that have been up 3-1 in an NHL best-of-seven series, 151 (or 58 per cent) closed the series out in Game 5.
And of the 164 teams that have been up 3-1 while having home-ice advantage, 107 (or 65 per cent) found a way to win Game 5 on home ice.
So, if you’re taking bets on this one, the Bruins are – for those reasons and a few others – likely the favourites.
Not that the Leafs are (or should be) deterred by any of this.
“I know what they’re saying in the other locker room,” Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul said on Friday after the morning skate. “They want to finish us tonight, they don’t want to go back to Toronto and I would expect them to play really well tonight. But we should be the more desperate team so I look forward to a big effort from us tonight.”
“We’ll find out a lot about what we’re made of by our effort tonight,” James van Riemdsyk added.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle echoed those sentiments, adding that he liked his team’s effort in key games during the season and felt they would come up big with their backs “against the wall.”
“We’ve been a pretty resilient group all year,” Carlyle said. “Our expectation is that we’ll play the best game we possibly can of the series.”
Both teams’ lineups will change out of necessity for this one. The Leafs will insert defenceman John-Michael Liles in on the third pairing due to Mark Fraser suffering a fracture to his forehead in Game 4, and the Bruins will add an undisclosed defenceman (perhaps Dougie Hamilton) due to Wade Redden suffering some sort of lower body injury in that same game.
(Toronto recalled Jesse Blacker and Boston recalled Matt Bartkowski on Thursday to give them some insurance on the back end.)
That shakeup will mean Jake Gardiner, in particular, will log a much heavier load than he did most of the season for Toronto, something that stands as a positive despite his inexperience.
The youngster has been one of the Leafs best players in this series, holding a share of the team scoring lead with Lupul despite missing Game 1 as a healthy scratch and creating a lot of offensive opportunities when he’s been on the ice.
In general this season, the Leafs have controlled the puck much, much better with Gardiner in the lineup than without, as evidenced by his sky-high possession numbers.
He has even earned some strong praise from his coach, which hasn’t always been forthcoming in a decidedly up-and-down sophomore campaign.
“I think Jake is moving better than at any time he’s moved this year,” Carlyle said. “I think his competitiveness on the defensive side of the puck has gone up dramatically from where he was at Christmas when he came back. “Obviously, we didn’t feel we were getting that from him or he would have been in our lineup. He’s elevated his game here in the playoffs – he has an element that every team would like.”