3 Takeaways From Bruins’ 4-3 Win Over Maple Leafs

It was a matchup that was very much anticipated and the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs were up to an Original Six matchup between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division that did not disappoint. In a back-and-forth 60-minute war, the Bruins were able to outlast the high-flying Maple Leafs to come away with a 4-3 win at the TD Garden to even the series 1-1.

Toronto won the first game at home, 2-1, on Nov. 5, but the Black and Gold were able to rally from two one-goal deficits for the win to increase their lead in the division to 11 points. Here are three takeaways from Boston’s 33rd win of the season and 20th on home ice in 2022-23.

Matt Grzelcyk & A.J. Greer Unlikely Heroes

Both team’s stars showed up offensively with Michael Bunting, Pierre Engvall, and Auston Matthews scoring for the Maple Leafs, while Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak also scored for the Bruins. The difference, however, for Boston turned out to be a seldom-used fourth-line forward and defenseman.

Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins
Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the game tied 2-2 in the second period, the Bruins took a one-goal lead when A.J. Greer, who has been in and out of the lineup in coach Jim Montgomery’s doghouse, collected a pass in the slot from Nick Foligno and beat Matt Murray along the ice. After Matthews tied the game early in the third period, Matt Grzelcyk one-timed a puck off the boards through a screen with just 1:16 remaining for what turned out to be the game-winning goal. It was Greer’s fourth goal of the season and Grzelcyk’s second.

Grzelcyk has been one of the Bruins’ defensemen that have gone somewhat unnoticed in a lot of games this season, but against Toronto, he was making an impact on nearly every shift. He got his stick on a lot of passes and shots in the defensive end, while blocking three shots in front of Linus Ullmark before scoring the deciding goal. 

60-Minute Playoff Atmosphere

From the drop of the puck, the two Eastern Conference heavyweights went back and forth and up and down the ice for 60 minutes. It was a physical contest that had only four power plays, two for each team, and saw both goalies stand on their heads with some highlight reel saves.

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Murray, who made 30 saves for the Maple Leafs, made the first big save of the night just two minutes in when he slid side to side and made a tremendous glove save to rob Brad Marchand alone at the side of the net. Ullmark was called on to make just 18 saves, but it sure felt like it was a lot more. His best save came in the second period when Toronto defenseman Mark Giordano tried to make a pass across the front of the Boston net, but the pass was blocked by Taylor Hall and the puck went back to Giordano who was starring at an empty net, but somehow Ullmark dove back to block the shot that was labeled for inside the post. Later in the period, Matthews came out from behind the Bruins’ net and his shot was stopped by Ullmark, but the rebound went right to William Nylander and the Boston goalie was able to react and stop the rebound attempt from the slot. 

After a wide-open first two periods, both teams treated the third period like a playoff game, with tight checking and limited chances taken with the Bruins having just six shots and Maple Leafs had four. If this game was a sign of things to come, a playoff series between these two teams in the spring would be must-see TV.

Bruins Survive Defensive Zone Turnovers

On their recent three-game trip to California, the Bruins were plagued at times with failing to clear the puck out of the zone when they had an opportunity and it led to a couple of goals. The same issues hampered the Black and Gold again against Toronto, but somehow, they were able to just survive without the Maple Leafs making them pay as much as they could have.

Toronto fired 12 shots at Ullmark in the second period and a lot of it came from not getting pucks out of the end. Multiple times the puck reached the defensive zone blueline, but the Maple Leafs kept the pressure on and took advantage of the long change in the period that Boston had. Tired bodies almost caught up with Boston and late in the period, Pastrnak had a chance to clear the puck out, but it was kept in and blocks from Charlie McAvoy and Grzelcyk bailed the Bruins out. 

Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When the Bruins have been at their best this season, they were having clean defensive zone breakouts and taking care of the puck, something that has not been the case in the last week. The Seattle Kraken made them pay on Jan. 12 in a 3-0 loss, but somehow, they barely survived it against the Maple Leafs. They need to clean it up moving forward.

It’s safe to say that the Bruins got the ugly taste out of their mouth from their first regulation home loss of the season to the Kraken two nights earlier with a bounce-back win against a division rival. They began the second half of the season like they began the first half, on a winning note. It wasn’t always pretty, but in the end, they got the two points to open up their lead in the division.

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