If it was a huge deal for the Toronto Maple Leafs to be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, it will be an even bigger deal tonight, when they get to play their first home playoff game in nine years. The Air Canada Center will be rocking, giving the Leafs and the Boston Bruins a tremendous setting for tonight's Game 3.
Boston took care of Game 1 at the Garden, winning 4-1 in a dominant performance. The Leafs scored first, but they had no answer for the Bruins from then on. By the time the final horn went, they had allowed four unanswered goals in a 4-1 loss that saw them outshot 40-20, outhit and quite simply, outplayed.
Toronto had an answer in Game 2, though. This time they allowed the first goal, but Joffrey Lupul scored twice and James Reimer had a sterling game as the Leafs came from behind to stun the Garden crowd in a 4-2 win.
With the series all tied up at 1-1, Game 3 looms large. The Leafs will hope to ride their home crowd, but the Bruins still have most of the team that won the Stanley Cup two years ago so they won't be fazed by what should be a crazy atmosphere in Toronto.
Can the Leafs ride their home crowd?
Tonight marks the return of playoff hockey to Toronto. It has been nine years since the city last hosted a playoff game and early a decade of frustration will be released in three hours tonight. Rarely does a team get to take advantage of a spectacle, but the Air Canada Center will be a spectacle tonight and the Leafs can use it to their advantage.
Will Joffrey Lupul keep it going?
Injuries limited Joffrey Lupul to just 16 games this season, but he still scored 11 goals. In Game 2, he looked just as dangerous, lighting the lamp twice as he carved out space in front of goal time and time again. Right now, there aren't a lot of goal scorers who are feeling it quite like Lupul and unless the Bruins can rough him up and keep him on the perimeter, it's tough to see him going quiet.
Can Andrew Ference shore up the blue line?
Ference sat out Game 2 after being suspended for his hit on Mikhail Grabovski and the Bruins paid for it. His replacement, Dougie Hamilton, looked like the teenager he is at times and Phil Kessel got in behind the defense for a breakaway for one of the Leafs goals. The Bruins blueline struggled without one of their best defensemen and it showed as they continued to shuffle their defensive pairings all game. Now Ference is back and Boston needs to get it together again.