Toronto Maple Leafs (17-12-3) at Boston Bruins (17-9-6)
Last 10: Toronto 4-3-1; Boston 5-2-3
The Leafs did it. They beat the Boston Bruins. As a reward, they get to play them again two nights later.
It took a good mix of a lot of things going right to pull it off their first win over the Bruins in nearly two calendar years. To the Leafs’ credit, they finished their hits, got involved in the game early, caused some turnovers and grabbed an early lead. They were patient and the amount of respect they had for their opponent, and their hunger to finally beat them, was apparent in the extra effort the likes of Kadri and Kessel among others were putting in defensively.
They were aided by a helping of luck, but it was nonetheless a good example of what it takes for the Leafs beat a superior opponent like the Bruins, who so badly had the Leafs’ number. Thankfully, some high skill plays by Kadri, Grabovski and – yes – Frazer McLaren found the back of the net and James Reimer stood tall. As the game wore on and the Leafs were leading by a couple, they did not get overly involved in the board battles in their own zone, choosing to focus more on plugging up the slot. It led to extended spells of time in their own zone, but as a five-man unit they held relatively steady and were bailed out by Reimer when they broke down. The willingness to put the body in the shooting lanes – from Fraser to Hamilton to Kessel – was key.
Joffrey Lupul should provide a noticeable boost tonight, if his first two games back prior to suspension were any indication. Kadri and MacArthur have hurt the Bruins in the last two games and it’s hard to imagine Lupul and Kadri failing to present a considerable challenge in their matchups. They were money in their first two games together.
This is the last time the Leafs and Bruins meet each other this year. The Bruins have clearly held the advantage with a 2-1-0 record, although the Maple Leafs took the front end of their home-and-home series with a 3-2 victory at Air Canada Centre on Saturday. The Bruins have beaten the Leafs 4 straight at the Boston Garden.
The Leafs and Bruins get right back at it for its second game in the last three nights. The Bruins are aware the Maple Leafs had a 3-0 lead by the beginning of the third period and are going to look to exact revenge on the Leafs for their poor showing in Toronto. Toronto scored its three goals on just 11 shots against the Bruins before Anton Khudobin was pulled in favor of Bruins starting goalie Tuukka Rask. The Maple Leafs snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Bruins with the victory.
It’s not often a team can only muster 13 shots and still win a game, but Toronto did just that against Khudobin on Saturday. It’s even harder to do it twice. Boston won’t let it happen and Toronto will look to get more pucks through the stingy Bruins defence. Toronto will try to turn its road fortunes around as its 0-2-1 away from ACC for the month of March.
“We have three more periods in a very tough building where we haven’t had success before and it’s going to take a more intense effort than we had [Saturday] to go in there and have success,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle told the Canadian Press following the win over the Bruins.
Khudobin started in place of Rask as Rask was in need of a break, but Boston needs an improved effort the next time it relies on its backup as Khudobin didn’t provide much of a challenge to the Maple Leafs’ shooters Saturday. Boston starter Rask is third in the NHL with a 1.90 goals-against average and second in the NHL in wins and save percentage at 14 and .928, respectively.
Coach Julien was juggling his lines around in practice Sunday in hopes of providing a much-needed spark to a team coming off a tough loss to a big division rival.
“It wasn’t enough fight in our team [Saturday] to deserve to win,” Julien told the team’s official website following the loss. “We’ve got to continue to battle, once we find a way to play three periods, like we did after we fell behind 3-0, we’ll be okay.”
Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri is in the midst of a four-game point streak with a total of three goals and six assists. He was named the NHL’s 3rd star for the past week with his electrifying play. Rask appears to be perpetually hot, even when his team is not. Although he is just 3-2-0 in his last five starts, Rask has a 1.75 GAA and .942 save percentage over that span.
Injury report: Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid (shoulder) and forward Chris Kelly (broken tibia) are out. … Toronto forward Leo Komarov is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
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