The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs square off for the fourth time this season, in what would be the deciding match of a home-and-home series between the Northeast Division foes.
Heading into Saturday night’s game, the Bruins have absolutely dominated the Leafs, outscoring them 19-5, and recording victories in all three games against their north-of-the-border foes.
The goalie matchup featured a 3-3 Tuukka Rask against a 4-0 James Reimer, both sporting nifty goals-against-averages heading into the clash. Reimer, who had been previously sidelined due to a concussion, made his first start in 18 games.
The first period was highly uneventful; as each team looked to be feeling out their opponent, rather than bringing it with their own play. Unlike the typical north-south, high-octane Leafs-Bruins games we’re accustomed too, this game had a much more defensive feel to it, noticeable from puck drop.
Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton have been playing unbearably inconsistent thus far this season, a theme that continued throughout first period of tonight’s game; however, the line was able to pull through their recent lull, tallying the first goal of the night.
Krejci sneakily skated through Toronto’s zone, and remained uncovered as Nathan Horton hit him with a beautiful feed from behind the net, setting up the center for an easy wrist shot goal, beating a rusty Reimer. Scoring came at an especially good time for Krejci, who had just signed a three-year extension with the Bruins earlier this week, totaling at $15.75 million for the entirety of the contract.
The Bruins gave this one back rather quickly though, as Mikhail Grabovski beat Rask with a one-timer, the puck possibly deflecting off Bruins defensemen Dennis Seidenberg in route towards the net. It was a tough shot for Rask to save, unfortunately coming soon after the Bruins tied things up. While the Bruins have been a quick-strike team, often able to score shortly after giving one up, they got a taste of their medicine in this instance.
Back and forth we went at the Garden, as the game certainly picked up its Boston Toronto feel in the second period.
Just moments after Toronto had tied up the score 1-1, Rich Peverley dashed up the ice, gained possession in the offensive zone, and dished a beautiful pass across the crease to Chris Kelly, who was in perfect position to beat Reimer with a wrist shot. It was Kelly’s 10th goal of the season, as the veteran center continues to find open ice in front of the net, making him a viable target for passes. Peverley’s pass was one of the finest of the season, and the versatile winger continues to impress in multiple facets of the game.
Rather than pure skill, it’s been Kelly’s determination and high hockey IQ that’s allowed for his breakout season, something I expect to continue for the full 82 game stretch. Peter Chiarelli made the right move when acquiring Kelly at least year’s deadline, as it’s clearly paid its dividends. Kelly’s speed, mind, consistently, and use in Julien’s system overall has not only benefited him as a player, but his teammates as well.
The third period has been the Bruins best period by far this season, a theme that continued Saturday night. Just five minutes into the period Johnny Boychuk extended the Bruins lead to two goals, as he slammed a “Johnny Rocket” past Reimer.
Boychuk, who has one of the hardest slap shots in the league, was given way too much space at the top of the circle, a mistake Toronto has made one too many times; the assists were given to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
The Bruins were able to play their game the rest of the third period, using Detroit-esque puck possession to drain both the clock, and the life out of their struggling opponent Toronto. Horton added a goal to give the Bruins a 4-1 lead, as the first line continues to pull out of their recent rut, and shed all signs of inconsistency.
The final score read 4-1, as the Bruins were able to keep their recent surge going, and claim the second spot in the Eastern Conference at night’s end.
From The Room
Reimer on his return to game action and the loss to the Bruins:
Joe Corvo on the victory over the Leafs and his first National Hockey League fight:
Rask on his confidence and the intensity of Boston fans: