The Maple Leafs have had quite the turnaround from their miserable state a couple of years ago, ascending to prominence behind a talented young core led by burgeoning superstar Auston Matthews. However, the Leafs have yet to break through with this core in the playoffs. They gave Washington all they could handle in the first round two years ago, and last year couldn’t quite overcome a 3-1 deficit to the rival Bruins. Having acquired superstar John Tavares in the offseason, the expectation is to not just make the playoffs, but win once they reach them and eventually hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since the original six era (1967).
Their journey yet again begins in Boston, against their old rivals, the Bruins. The Bruins have reestablished themselves as one of the titans of the east with three straight playoff appearances and two straight hundred-point seasons. The Bruins have experienced some success in the last decade or so, winning a Cup in 2011 and making another Final in 2013. The Bruins will lean on their experienced core plus some of their talented youth to bring them back to the Finals and potentially win their second Cup this decade.