Boston - April 23, 2019 - The Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins are going to play Game 7 for the third time since 2013.
The winner of the deciding game in the Eastern Conference First Round at TD Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, NESN) advances to the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Boston has won the past two times it has faced Toronto in Game 7, including an epic comeback from three goals down in the third period in 2013 to win 5-4 in overtime in the first round. Can the Bruins do it again? Or will the Maple Leafs finally shed their past with a victory?
Sixty minutes - or more - of hockey will answer that question, but we couldn't wait for that. Instead, we asked five members of the NHL.com staff to pick the winner and list their reasons. Judging from their answers, Game 7 should be another epic episode in this Original Six rivalry.
Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
I'm a homer, right? Seriously, though, this is as hard a game to pick as it comes. I've felt whiplash from game to game in this series, and even from shift to shift. Momentum changes are constant, and neither team really seems to have had the upper hand for an extended period. But with the Bruins and their wealth of Game 7 experience -- from Zdeno Chara (13 games) to Patrice Bergeron (11) to David Krejci (10) to Brad Marchand (eight) -- coming home to TD Garden to potentially finish a series and move on to the second round, it's hard to go against the team that's been there before. The Bruins seemed to finally find their game in Game 6 and play like the team that had 107 points during the regular season. If they can replicate that and feed off the home crowd, they'll end the night with "Bergeron! Bergeron! Bergeron!" and company providing nightmares for the Maple Leafs once again. Final score: Bruins 5, Maple Leafs 3
Brian Compton, deputy managing editor
The Bruins were given a second chance when they defeated the Maple Leafs on Sunday, and I don't anticipate them wasting it. Marchand was the best player on the ice in Game 6, and I expect at least some of that momentum to carry over. Forward Jake DeBrusk scoring his first goal of the series Sunday also has to be encouraging to Boston. If DeBrusk has found his groove, it's going to be awfully difficult for Toronto to advance. Final score: Bruins 4, Maple Leafs 2
Dan Rosen, senior writer
Full disclosure: I picked the Bruins to win the series in seven games. I'm going back on that now. The more I think about it, the more I believe that it's finally time for the Maple Leafs to exorcise the demons of Game 7s against Boston. They blew a chance in Game 6 to close the series. They won't blow it in Game 7. Auston Matthews will be the best player on the ice. Frederik Andersen will make a game-changing save with the game tied or with the Maple Leafs ahead by one in the third period. Toronto will dominate puck possession. Mitchell Marner will score the game-winner. The Maple Leafs finally will prove they are for real. It's time. It's their time. Final score: Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 3
Dave Stubbs, columnist
This one is for Commander Chris Hadfield, the legendary Canada-born astronaut and loyal Maple Leafs fan. From Dec. 19, 2012, through May 13, 2013, aboard the International Space Station, Hadfield followed his team. His Soyuz capsule undocked for his return to Earth one minute after puck drop for Game 7 between the Maple Leafs and Bruins. During his descent he lost the ability to track the game. During his re-entry, the Maple Leafs took a 4-1 lead in third period before losing 5-4 in overtime, with Bergeron's winning goal coming 26 minutes before he landed in Kazakhstan. "How did the Leafs do?" Hadfield recalled asking his wife, Helene, by satellite phone. "And she said, 'Ohhhhhh, I'm sooooooo sorry…'" Hadfield is retired as an astronaut but maintains a busy speaking and teaching career. He's still cheering for his Maple Leafs. They owe him. Final score: Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 2
Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
This is about the Maple Leafs proving that they can take the next step after being eliminated in the first round the past two seasons, against the Washington Capitals in six games in 2017 and against the Bruins in seven games in 2018. This season they have failed to take advantage of two prime opportunities, both coming at home. A victory in Game 4 would have given them a 3-1 lead in this series but they lost 6-4. A victory in Game 6 on Sunday would have given them their first Stanley Cup Playoff series win since 2004, but they lost 4-2. Now they must face the Ghosts of Game 7 Past at TD Garden, a place where they blew third-period leads in losing Game 7 in 2013 and 2018. History tells us Boston knows it can win in this situation. Toronto has yet to show it can. Final score: Bruins 4, Leafs 1