Following a blowout shutout win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to string a couple of wins together at home against a Bruins team will be missing several key pieces from their lineup (7 p.m, TSN4).
With Matthews and Nylander still out, neither team will be at full strength entering this game in what should be a good test of the organizations’ respective depth.
The Leafs won’t forget the last time they faced the Bruins, a 5-1 loss in Boston after handily outplaying them in the opening 20 minutes before succumbing to poor second and third periods. It was a back-to-back situation with the backup in net, though, against a rested Boston team that was waiting for them at home.
This time around, the Leafs are coming off a great showing against the Flyers, while their opponents are missing Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, and Brandon Carlo. Plus, the Bruins have only scored nine goals in their last five games. That said, Mike Babcock wisely pointed out today that, with how quickly it got out of hand against a Philly team that mailed it in pretty hard, the last game was a bit of a non-contest as far as the overall competitiveness and the Leafs will need to be ready to go for a stiffer challenge this evening.
Tonight, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will run 2015 45th overall pick Jakob Forsbaka-Karlsson in between his two elite wingers on the top line in Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. David Krejci will center a relatively intact second line, while 23-year-old Colby Cave will play just his sixth NHL game in between Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari. Boston’s heavy, forecheck-driven bottom line of Chris Wagner – Sean Kuraly – David Backes will stay intact from their last meeting with Toronto.
A major focus for the Leafs will naturally be on the two wingers that comprise the Bruins top line, as Pastrnak enters the game with a ridiculous 17 goals in 23 contests this season while shooting close to four times a night along with generating two scoring chances per game (he’s not even shooting as high as you might expect considering the output, currently sitting at 18.7%). The Leafs will need a big night from the Tavares line — which started well but faded in the back-to-back situation last time against Boston — up against Marchand and Pastrnak.
The Maple Leafs, somewhat quietly, haven’t scored a power play goal since they scored three November 13th versus Los Angeles in a 5-1 win, although there were zero penalties called in two of those games. The Bruins have mentioned a desire to step their physical game up recently with some of their key members missing from the lineup. There were 11 power plays between the two teams in a heated Montreal vs. Boston game on Saturday. We’ll see if anything changes as far as the dearth of power plays either way in the Leafs’ recent games, but if it does, the Toronto power play will need to find a way to break through and take advantage.
Game Day Quotes
Bruce Cassidy on playing the Leafs hard and physical:
I think it showed against Montreal. We were much more physical. So were they. I thought it was a good old-fashioned game in terms of a couple of guys on each team were bleeding and had to get helped off a little bit here and there without crossing the line. It was a good, hard hockey game.
It is how we have to play against Toronto. We know that they’re skilled and fast and they want to get going. We’ve got to make it tough on them. They’ve got to travel through some bodies if they want to get to the net. That’s the way we have to look at it if we are going to beat them. It doesn’t mean that you run around looking for hits and be reckless, but when they’re there, you’ve got to take them.
Mike Babcock on the last meeting with the Bruins:
It’s different for sure. Last time we played them, I thought we started great. They jumped on us. We had played the night before. We weren’t as good as we wanted to be in the second half of the game. They scored twice on the power play. Anytime you look at people like Chara and Bergeron, those are significant pieces [missing]. But they have other injuries as well.
Bottom line is, there’s a game here tonight. I saw them play against Montreal. It was a way different pace than the Philly game was — it was competitive, people were after each other, it was high end skill, totally different. Tonight should be a lot of fun.
Babcock on Frederik Gauthier’s development this year:
I think just understanding the speed and the pace. He’s just a kid trying to figure it out, right? Coach won’t even play him on the penalty kill yet. There’s lots of things you’ve got to overcome. If you’re [Johnsson] two days ago versus today, one game doesn’t make a career, but one game might give you some confidence. It’s all about confidence and earning your way.
Frederik Andersen on his impressions of Patrick Marleau, who will play his 1,600th game tonight:
He’s probably the most humble guy I’ve ever met. For a guy like him, he never looks too good upon himself or anything. He’s ready to help and respects everyone.
Babcock on Marleau’s influence on young players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner:
And on Kap and everyone you’re not hearing about — like everybody, any trainer or any coach… anybody. He flat out makes you better just by walking by you.
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 – #92 Igor Ozhiganov
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
*Game time decision: Zaitsev (sick)
Scratched: Justin Holl, Martin Marincin
Unsigned: William Nylander
Injured: Auston Matthews (shoulder)
Boston Bruins Projected Lines
#63 Brad Marchand – #23 Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson – #88 David Pastrnak
#43 Danton Heinen – #46 David Krejci – #74 Jake Debrusk
#20 Joakim Nordstrom – #26 Colby Cave – #55 Noel Acciari
#14 Chris Wagner – #52 Sean Kuraly – #42 David Backes
#48 Matt Grzelcyk – #86 Kevan Miller
#47 Torey Krug – #75 Connor Clifton
#79 Jeremy Lauzon – #27 John Moore
#41 Jaroslav Halak
#40 Tuukka Rask
Injured: Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron, Brandon Carlo, Urho Vaakanainen, Zdeno Chara