Maple Leafs, Bruins missing the mark
Thursday's matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins begs the question: Can a shootout game end in a tie by default?
Both the visiting Maple Leafs (1-2-3) and the host Bruins (2-1-3) have been sources of much shootout futility so far this season, each losing three of their six games in that manner.
It's to the point that you'd half-expect coaches Ron Wilson or Claude Julien to pull their goalie toward the end of overtime in order to force someone to come up with a victory the next time a shootout looms.
Hockey pundits are still talking about Wilson's decision to replace Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala after 65 minutes of play on Tuesday, putting Curtis Joseph in for the shootout against Anaheim. It backfired, as a cold Joseph looked particularly at sea on Teemu Selanne's whippet-like shot.
All the talk about the ploy was a bit of a red herring. Given that Toronto's shooters weren't even hitting the net at the other end of the rink, Johnny Bower could have been in goal and it wouldn't have mattered.
Nikolai Kulemin had one of the misses, but he's been the only player this season to find the mark for the Maple Leafs. He's made good on two of his three shootout tries this season; his teammates are 0-for-5.
Ryan Hollweg is scheduled to return for Toronto on Thursday after serving his second suspension this young season for hitting from behind. Wilson thinks the player doesn't have to be a detriment to the club.
"Hopefully, he has learned his lesson and he understands that his next suspension is four [games] or probably a lot longer," said Wilson.
"He can skate and get in on the forecheck and be a valuable asset for us," the coach added.
Hollweg's insertion means that Jason Blake, he of the lucrative contract, is taking a turn on the sidelines. Blake, who has one goal and two assists in six games, was bumped down to the fourth line against the Ducks.
Phil Kessel and David Krejci have scored once each for Boston's only shootout conversions in 13 attempts.
The Bruins lost shootouts on consecutive nights to Pittsburgh and Buffalo to begin this week.
Boston ranks 11th in goals-against this season, but the stat is a bit deceiving. Veteran goaltenders Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez have been solid, but not outstanding.
However, the goalie that gets the call on Thursday — and it will likely be Thomas — will face a Toronto squad that is tied for dead last in goal scoring.
Kessel has been a bright spot for the Bruins and a reminder to general managers to be patient with struggling young players. The subject of trade rumours late last year, the 22-year-old has six goals in as many games.
Patrice Bergeron, meanwhile, is adapting to the grind of NHL life after nearly a year away due to a concussion suffered last season. The Ancienne-Lorette, Que., native has five assists and has won nearly 60 per cent of his faceoffs, but has yet to score.
The Northeast Division foes will play six times this season with the changes to the NHL schedule. In eight head-to-head matchups last season, the Bruins managed to garner 12 points, with the Maple Leafs earning six.
With the exception of Boston's power play, special teams haven't been very inspiring for the clubs. Toronto is 25th on the power play and 29th on the penalty kill, with the Bruins 10th and 27th, respectively.
Toronto returns to action on Saturday for a home game against the Ottawa Senators (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET).