After a 6-1 win last night with offensive contributions coming from everywhere in the lineup, the Toronto Maple Leafs fly into Boston looking to make it four wins in a row on Hockey Night in Canada (7 p.m., CBC).
The Leafs will turn to Garret Sparks in net tonight, who hasn’t played since he stopped 33 of 34 shots against L.A in the middle of October, while the Bruins will start Jaroslav Halak with Tuukka Rask away on personal leave. Before getting pulled on Thursday versus Vancouver, Halak was a .950 save percentage or better in three consecutive starts and was leading all NHL goaltenders in the SV% category.
This will be a stiff test for a Leafs team that had to travel after their win over the Devils last night and will be facing a rested Bruins team that is 33-10-5 at TD Garden dating back to the beginning of last season and will be looking to respond after conceding eight goals to Vancouver last time out. The Leafs did help their cause with a blowout win last night that allowed Mike Babcock to conserve the ice time of the team’s top lines and pairings.
Compared to last season, the Bruins have been less prolific offensively in the early going — their 44 goals are the fewest of any team currently in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. That said, their all-world top line remains healthy and intact (all three of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak are over a point-per-game so far this year) and the Bruins haven’t given up much at the other end. They’re playing a lower-event style of hockey early on this season and currently sit second in the NHL in expected goals against.
The Leafs have been tightening up on their end of things of late, allowing just four goals in their last four games. While Frederik Andersen’s lights-out play has been a massive piece of the puzzle, their scoring chances and high-danger chances against per 60 at 5v5 have also dropped considerably in November after their high-event start to the season — down from 30.1 to to 25.1 and 11.5 to 9.9, respectively.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on his team finding consistency in its performances:
There are not many games this year that I didn’t like our club in. The St. Louis game, the Calgary game… but most of the time we’ve been consistent. We’re trying to develop depth in our lineup and that means people with confidence and four lines and six D that can really play. I think we are getting more help through the whole group right now and that makes you better. It was good last night that we were able to play everybody. We will be a much fresher team here today and we look forward to the opportunity.
Babcock on Garret Sparks starting for the first time in over three weeks:
That’s his job, right? This is his opportunity, so his opportunity is to make good on his opportunity. I think he’s gotten better and better as he has gotten used to the shooters in practice every day.
At the start, when you first come from the American league, no matter how good you think you are or you are, the puck just goes in. You’re watching a guy and you’re just going, “Holy, what’s going on?” As time goes on, you get used to the shooters and now you are starting to get your confidence back and now you have to show it tonight. We need to play well in front of him, but he needs to do his job.
Babcock on returning to the building where the team lost Game 7:
You guys spend way more time on that than me. I had a real nice sleep when I got in here last night and had another little nap here today. I never thought about it. I thought about the two points we have available.
Any time you lose in the playoffs, you walk through all of the things you should’ve, could’ve, would’ve done and how you would’ve liked it to be different. There is nothing you can do about it, though. We’ve got a whole year to try to get ourselves in a playoff position.
What is very clear about the NHL is that we all look like we are the same, and then when the playoffs start, you’re playing a really good opponent right away. We know that. We’re playing a really good opponent here tonight. We are playing a real good Boston team and we have a lot of respect for them. It should be a lot of fun.
Nazem Kadri on what the team learned from the Game 7 loss in this building last Spring:
It’s experience. Playing in Game 7s, especially Game 7s on the road, are challenging. It is a part of the maturation process, especially with the young guys in the dressing room. And anyone, really. It gives you that sense of urgency and helps you understand what it takes to move forward in a playoff series.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#21 Patrick Marleau – #43 Nazem Kadri – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #26 Par Lindholm – #28 Connor Brown
#63 Tyler Ennis – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #32 Josh Leivo
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#51 Jake Gardiner – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#23 Travis Dermott – #52 Martin Marincin
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Scratched: Justin Holl, Igor Ozhiganov
Unsigned: William Nylander
Injured: Auston Matthews (shoulder)
Boston Bruins Projected Lines
#63 Brad Marchand – #37 Patrice Bergeron – #88 David Pastrnak
#20 Joakim Nordstrom – #46 David Krejci – #74 Jake Debrusk
#43 Danton Heinen – #23 Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson – #10 Anders Bjork
#14 Chris Wagner – #52 Sean Kuraly – #42 David Backes
#33 Zdeno Chara – #25 Brandon Carlo
#47 Torey Krug – #27 John Moore
#48 Matt Grzelcyk – #44 Steve Kampfer
#41 Jaroslav Halak
#80 Dan Vladar
Injured: Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller, Tuukka Rask