The Toronto Maple Leafs didn't necessarily play well, but they didn't blow it, writes Mike Brophy. Toronto held on to a two-goal lead and defeated the Bruins 4-3 to win their second game in a row.
They didn't necessarily play well, but they didn't blow it.
That, in the long run, will go a long way toward exorcising the demons that have haunted the Toronto Maple Leafs since they blew a three-goal lead in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs last season. It will also help the Maple Leafs start believing in themselves again after a long slump.
This time the Maple Leafs held on to a two-goal lead and defeated the Bruins 4-3 to win their second game in a row.
You can say the Bruins out-played the Maple Leafs. You'd be right. Boston out-shot Toronto 41-26 and held a significant territorial advantage.
You might suggest the Bruins were a little tired coming off a tough Western Conference road trip having played in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose and, again, you'd be right.
Suffice it to say the Maple Leafs problems have not all been solved in this mini two-game winning streak.
The flip side is the Maple Leafs are trying to dig themselves out of a hole and have a number of players ill with the flu. Back-to-back wins, however ugly, is a step in the right direction.
Oh, it is also worth mentioning goalie Jonathan Bernier turned in a stellar performance.
"We had a lot of sick guys so it's a battle out there and we're playing the Boston Bruins in their building," said Toronto centre Tyler Bozak, who led the way with two goals and three points. "It's a tough game to win and we needed to play well. We knew we needed to weather some storms because they put a lot of pressure on you no matter who you are. We were able to get the job done and that is the most important thing."
The memory of the Maple Leafs disastrous collapse against the Bruins in the playoffs last season remains a hot topic of conversation in Toronto and a similar collapse certainly would not have resonated well, but Bozak said the players have taken a different view of the stunning defeat.
"We kind of put that behind us as much as we can," Bozak said. "I think that series helped us realize we can play with them. This is a huge win for our team and we needed it."
Not only did Bozak lead the way with three points, his linemates Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk also cashed in. Kessel had one of his best games of the season drawing three assists. He also played passionately at both ends of the ice. Perhaps his nicest play of the game came midway through the third period when he made a nice deke to get free and then set up centre Nazem Kadri for a good scoring chance in the slot. Kadri didn't score, but drew a penalty on the play. JVR chipped in a goal and an assist. Kessel also made a great defensive play catching Jarome Iginla on the back check in the second period.
18 in 48
Toronto left-winger van Riemsdyk had 18 goals in 48 games last season and against the Bruins managed his 18th goal this season in 46 games. The 24-year-old van Riemsdyk is on pace for 31 goals this season which would eclipse his single-season high of 21 in 2010-11 with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Leafs swap Holland, McClement
The Maple Leafs did not make a trade, but finally wised up and gave centre Peter Holland a little playing time with better wingers. The 23-year-old first round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2009 had five goals and nine points while playing sparingly before being sent to the AHL Toronto Marlies last week. By the way, Holland had three goals in two games with the Marlies. Upon being recalled, he was placed on the third line between David Clarkson and Nikolai Kulemin, two guys who at least have offensive upside and responded with 10:26 of solid play on 18 shifts.
Jay McClement, a checker and good penalty-killer, was appropriately designated to the fourth line to skate between Frazer McLaren and Carter Ashton. McClement is a hard worker and solid defensive citizen, but he has brought nothing to the table in terms of offence this season.
The Maple Leafs just never seem prepared to do battle at the start of games. Tuesday's game was no exception. Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier was forced to save the day when the Bruins attempted a wrap-around by Brad Marchand 42 seconds in and then he stopped Jarome Iginla on a breakaway at 1:30.
The Bruins struck first at 3:38 when Toronto defenceman Dion Phaneuf's weak clearing attempt around the boards resulted in a turnover then enabled Marchand to score his 11th goal of the season.
The Gardiner did it
Toronto defenceman Jake Gardiner looked like he was moving towards stardom in the playoffs Bruins last season, but that has not been the case this year. He has been wildly inconsistent in his own zone, has not played with authority and has not produced to his potential.
A healthy scratch against Carolina last week, Gardiner played 24:23 against New Jersey Sunday night and was charged with three giveaways. Nevertheless he stayed in the lineup and scored his third goal of the season in the second period on the power play to put his team up 3-2.
Flu bug bites
Right-winger David Clarkson was sick with the flu, but dressed for the Maple Leafs nevertheless. The flu seems to be working its way through the Toronto dressing room.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.
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