Hockey

Toskala on the spot against Bruins

Vesa Toskala was terrific the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs played in Boston, and needs to repeat that performance Thursday night as the Bruins have since picked up their game.

Vesa Toskala was terrific the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs played in Boston, and needs to repeat that performance Thursday night as the Bruins have since picked up their game.

Toronto (5-4-4) appeared to be moving towards the depths envisioned by many hockey observers heading into the previous meeting in Boston exactly two weeks ago.  

The team had lost five straight (0-2-3) and appeared to be facing another defeat after spotting Boston a 2-0 lead.

The Maple Leafs went on to score four answered goals, starting a span during which they've gone 4-2-1.

Toronto, escaping with just one point in the last two games, against Carolina, has confounded pundits.

With the likes of unheralded leading goal scorer Mikhail Grabovski, and Niklas Hagman and Dominic Moore, Toronto is a surprising 14th in the NHL in goals scored, but the defence corps has sometimes been disappointing.

Goaltending was thought to be the strength of the team, but both netminders have started slowly. Vesa Toskala has allowed three goals per game, while backup Curtis Joseph has yielded nine goals in two starts.

Toskala allowed four goals during the first 14 shots in the loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday, but it was about this time last season where he started to bounce back from a slow start to the season.

His performance in Boston two weeks ago was also impressive. The Bruins scored both of their goals in a 31-second span, with Toskala making 26 saves to shut the door the rest of the time.

Toskala is among a number of Leafs who have performed their best on the road.

"It's a little easier for a younger team sometimes to play on the road to not bear the burden of trying to impress your fans," Ron Wilson told the Globe and Mail. "We find ourselves behind the 8-ball more so at home than we do on the road."

Boston on different track

Boston (6-3-3) has turned a corner since the blown lead against Toronto two weeks ago. The loss was the third consecutive and fifth in six games for the Bruins.

The Bruins have outscored opponents 14-8 since then, winning all but one of their last five games. Goalie Tim Thomas spurred the change with back-to-back shutouts in Western Canada, and his teammates responded by thoroughly pasting Dallas 5-1 in their last game.

Thomas was inexplicably left off the NHL all-star ballot on Tuesday, while perenially injured Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders was included.

Boston's Marc Savard is again among the league leaders in points, with 15, while Phil Kessel has been the sniper on the team with seven goals.

Michael Ryder was signed as a free agent after several seasons in Montreal to help with goal scoring, but with two goals and six assists, his stats resemble that of a playmaker. After a decent start, Ryder has one goal and two assists in his last eight games.

Zdeno Chara has been his usual imposing self on defence, although his points total is a little below his usual standard. Chara has yet to score in 12 games, contributing three assists.

Toronto will return home to prepare to host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca 6:30 p.m. ET).

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