Leafs Taught a Lesson by Bruins
With the game tonight between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins being built up to be a measuring stick game for the young buds, I think the Leafs measured up really well before falling a little short. This game was much closer than the 6-3 final score makes it seem to be. The Leafs were able to stand toe to toe with the defending Stanley Cup Champions and hottest team in the NHL. The difference tonight was the Bruins ability to know how to win games. With the Leafs off to a great start while being the youngest team in the league, there are going to be games where they just don't know how to get the W. It is said that a team needs to lose before it can learn how to win. In my opinion the Leafs learned something tonight.
The Bruins and the Leafs played an even first period. Boston outshot the Leafs 17-16 in a high tempo offensive period. Both Mikhail Grabovski for the Leafs and Milan Lucic for the Bruins capitalized on the power play in the opening frame. Toronto had some nice chances, and early in the game began double shifting Phil Kessel. The Leafs leading scorer played with regular linemates Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak while also getting out there with Grabovski and David Steckel on the best fourth line in the NHL. Tim Thomas and Jonas Gustavsson were strong for their respective teams. Thomas was his usual strong self, stopping a Kessel breakaway with the back of his leg, while Gustavsson stared down big Zdeno Chara multiple times during a five on three in the first.
The Bruins took their first lead of the game early in the second when a David Krejci shot bounced off of Bozak and past a helpless Gustavsson. The Leafs almost answered back quickly when a Phaneuf blast beat Thomas, but the shot dented the post and went out. Lupul eventually did tie it after one timing a perfect Kessel pass off of a two on one. Kessel really demonstrated his skill and speed after receiving the puck just inside his own zone and deftly drawing the defenseman to him before sliding it to Lupul. The Leafs pressured the Bruins following the goal, but a poor backcheck by Kessel left Chara wide open late in the second and the Norris winner beat Gustavsson to put the Bruins back in front. An otherwise perfect period by the Leafs yet they were down a goal because of one mistake.
The Bruins took a two goal lead early in the third when Nikolai Kulemin left Benoit Pouliot alone in front of the net. The former Hab easily deposited the puck past The Monster. The Leafs were playing a great game against a good team. The play was even for most of the game, but two bad mistakes and the Bruins had a two goal lead. Matt Frattin got the Leafs back to within one quickly, and with less than five minutes left the Leafs were right there trying to tie it up. However Luke Schenn over skated the puck before being outmuscled by Lucic out front and the Bruins restored the two goal cushion. Brad Marchand added an empty netter to inflate the final score.
Hopefully the Leafs learned from the Bruins tonight. With these two teams meeting again Saturday night, it's imperative that the Leafs take tonight's game and identify the small areas in which they need to improve. The Bruins scored with less than five minutes to play in all three periods tonight. Late goals like that are momentum building; Boston stayed out of penalty trouble, the Leafs were 1-2 on the PP while the Bruins went 1-5; and the Bruins made the Leafs pay for their mistakes. Toronto showed tonight that it can play with this team, the next step is showing that they can beat them.
Men of the Match
Leafs: Phil Kessel - The guy was flying tonight. Although he was exposed by Chara for the third Bruins goal, he was strong at both ends of the ice. Kessel was buzzing the net all night and was unfortunate to not finish. Made a beautiful play to set up Lupul's goal.
Bruins: Zdeno Chara - Kessel's shadow actually outscored him tonight by potting a goal and an assist. Chara logged 27:25 on the night and is a man among boys.
Next Game: The Leafs head to Boston to play the back end of this home and home series Saturday night.