It will be the first Bruins vs. Leafs matchup in nearly two years — and the first ever for the Leafs under head coach Sheldon Keefe — tonight on Hockey Night in Canada (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet/CBC).
The Leafs and their fans haven’t exactly missed these rivalry games knowing Toronto has lost four of their last five regular-season games against Boston, not to mention the seven-game playoff series in between back in April 2019.
The threat posed by the year-over-year best line in hockey — comprised of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak — as well as the Bruins power play is obvious, and a better start from Charlie Coyle (he is already halfway to last season’s goal total through eight games) plus the retention of Taylor Hall’s services over the summer so far has given them a credible second line in behind the big three despite the significant loss of David Krejci. The only approach that has ever proven effective is forcing the Bruins’ top line to play more of the game without the puck than they’re used to, which is easier said than done against a line centered by Patrice Bergeron.
Both teams are coming off of solid weeks, setting the stage for an intriguing HNIC matchup. After a 3-3 start, including back-to-back losses to Carolina and Florida by a combined 7-1 scoreline, the Bruins are starting to gain some traction coming off of a shootout win over the Panthers — Florida’s only loss this season — and a 5-1 thumping of the Detroit Red Wings. The Leafs have settled into the season after some early turbulence thanks to four wins on the trot, with their power play finally coming through with an important goal in the OT victory over Tampa on Thursday.
The Leafs will start with the same lineup as the Tampa game, which wasn’t the same lineup as the one that ended the Tampa game; meaning, Matthews is back with Nylander and Tavares is back with Marner in the top six, flanked by Bunting and Kerfoot, respectively. “The other night wasn’t really reflective of anything I felt about the lines as a whole,” Keefe said this morning.
The goaltending matchup pits the Bruins new offseason addition, Linus Ullmark, against Jack Campbell, who continues to roll along to start the season with just a single game (of his nine appearances this season) where he was below a .910 save percentage.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on whether there is any concern about Jack Campbell’s workload with Petr Mrazek out:
I wouldn’t call it concern because he has been really healthy and I think we have managed him well on off days and practice days. It is for the workload purpose.
The schedule right now is pretty good in the sense that there are no back-to-backs coming up until the end of next week. We feel very comfortable just continuing with Jack.
Keefe on reverting to the lines at the start of the Tampa game despite switching them up later in the night:
I just think those guys have done a good job. The other night wasn’t really reflective of anything I felt about the lines as a whole. In the game, there wasn’t a whole lot happening. I thought, in particular with the Tavares line, they really needed a boost to change the chemistry a little bit. Putting Willy there, I think we got that. That line ended up giving us some real good shifts towards the end of that second period.
I had full intention of putting them back together. I want to give them a little more runway. I foresee it being something that moves around throughout the season. We will stick with what we saw this morning tonight.
Keefe on whether William Nylander is playing the best hockey of his career:
Willy has played a lot of really good hockey. I don’t think it has been his best. I think he has more to give. He’s played really well for sure. He has produced. He has scored some huge goals to win us games. Shift to shift, over his entire game, he has been better.
At times last season, I thought he was outstanding. I think he has shown that level at times, but in terms of the shift-to-shift play, I think he has a lot more to give, as all our guys do.
With the fact that he is producing and he is clutch with two overtime-winning goals now and a game-winning goal in the first game of the season, he is scoring at big times and important times for us. That is important because that itself is a skill to come out in that time and do that. I still believe Willy has a lot more to give, which is obviously a great thing for us.
Keefe on whether Justin Holl could become discouraged with the consecutive scratches:
In terms of him being discouraged, he is in control of how he handles this and manages that. I talked to him today again, just as I have throughout this. We didn’t intend on him sitting this long, frankly. It is just how it has gone. The others have played well. The team has played well and had success.
It is on him to stay engaged, continue to work, and make sure, when his opportunity comes, he is ready to go. That is really it.
Liljegren sat for a long time, came into the lineup, hasn’t missed a beat, and has been rolling. It is on the players to stay ready. It is on us as coaches to keep them engaged and keep working with them. He has to be patient here right now.
Patrice Bergeron on the challenge presented by the Leafs:
They have a lot of great players in that lineup throughout. Anytime you’re facing players like that, you have to be aware of the five guys on the ice and make sure you deny time and space but also passing lanes and really never quitting on any plays.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#47 Pierre Engvall – #64 David Kampf – #25 Ondrej Kase
#20 Nick Ritchie – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#44 Morgan Rielly – #23 Travis Dermott
#8 Jake Muzzin – #78 TJ Brodie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#60 Joseph Woll
Extras: Justin Holl, Kristian Rubins
Injured: Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek
Boston Bruins Projected Lines
#63 Brad Marchand – #37 Patrice Bergeron – #88 David Pastrnak
#71 Taylor Hall – #13 Charlie Coyle – #12 Craig Smith
#74 Jake DeBrusk – #56 Erik Haula – #20 Curtis Lazar
#11 Trent Frederic – #92 Tomas Nosek – #83 Karson Kuhlman
#28 Derek Forbort – #73 Charlie McAvoy
#48 Matt Grzelcyk – #25 Brandon Carlo
#6 Mike Reilly – #75 Connor Clifton
Starter: #35 Linus Ullmark
#1 Jeremy Swayman
Injured: Nick Foligno, Anton Blidh