It may be a day later than usual, but the win against the Boston Bruins is still lingering in the minds of many Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans – especially because the Bruins seem to step up their play to the next level every time they take on their division rivals.
For some time now, the Bruins have had the Maple Leafs’ number – whether it be in a seven-game series or from time to time during the regular season. The fact is, the Maple Leafs have struggled over the last number of years at the hands of the Bruins.
And while there were comebacks and reminders in their most recent matchup on Saturday night, the Maple Leafs were able to put forth a strong effort en route to defeating the Bruins with a 4-3 overtime win.
That said, here’s what we took away from Saturday night’s game.
Rivalry Continues With Playoff Atmosphere
From the opening puck drop to the minute that Morgan Rielly scored the overtime winner, this game had playoff appeal to it. The speed, the precision of the plays, it almost seemed as though the two teams both had something to prove in this game.
Both goalies made some timely stops and Frederik Andersen stood on his head for the Maple Leafs as they gave up over 40 shots to a Bruins team that has shown just how capable they are of putting the puck in the net.
Either way, the game came down to the wire. The Bruins tied the game late with a David Pastrnak goal and the Maple Leafs put out their studs in overtime to grab the win. While the Maple Leafs may have won, they did give up the lead on two separate occasions in the game and left fans with the reminder of two previous playoff series. That said, if this is any indication of how much these two teams still hate each other, it could be a fun matchup all year long and an even better series if they do meet once again in the spring.
Maple Leafs Show Some Fight
The Maple Leafs are sporting a smaller lineup this season – even more so that previous years. They’re fast, talented, but they are small. In saying that, they haven’t shown the most physicality by any measure so far this season. That was until their Saturday night matchup with the Bruins.
Believe it or not, the Maple Leafs reached the 30-hit plateau for the first time this season as a team. They finished the game with 36 hits and beat the Bruins by two in that category. What was maybe more impressive was who led the team in that category.
Dmytro Timashov led the way for the blue and white with nine hits and was followed up by one of the smaller Maple Leafs players Trevor Moore who tallied five hits of his own. After that, it was Kasperi Kapanen, Frederik Gauthier and Jake Muzzin who each had four of their own.
While it’s always a physical affair, the dominance shown by the Maple Leafs and their lack of pull back might’ve been what gave this team the win in the end.
Time for Timashov
Forget the fact that he didn’t back down from any battle on the ice, hitting some of the Bruins bigger players, but Timashov might’ve been one of the best players on the ice for either team on Saturday night.
He had a first-period snipe – his first NHL goal – and it came on his only shot of the game, but he also added the nine hits which created other opportunities for his club. What’s better is that the 23-year-old did it in just under 12 minutes of ice-time – a season high for the kid who clearly got into coach Mike Babcock’s good books in this one.
After the win, Timashov was even surprised by his efforts.
“Of course, it’s a dream come true, always a dream to score my first goal,” he said, according to NHL.com. “I didn’t think it was going to come this soon because I don’t score a lot of goals, I’m more of a passer, but I’m happy to score my first one.”
Another Leaf Falls
That said, the Maple Leafs didn’t escape this one without some bad news. Andreas Johnsson was forced to leave the game. He played just 10:36 after blocking a hard shot from Bruins’ defenceman Brandon Carlo 11 minutes into the second period.
X-rays did come back negative on Johnsson’s leg, according to Babcock who said, “I think he’s going to be fine. The X-rays were negative, we’ll see in the morning. He might not practice tomorrow but he’ll be back in.”
Johnsson did record an assist on Rielly’s opening goal and has five points in nine games for the Maple Leafs this season.
Well, it seemed to go well. Mitch Marner played a total of just under 15 minutes with Auston Matthews in all situations and finished with a Corsi For Percentage of 51.72 while that number dropped to 23.08 without Matthews next to him.
Not only did the two dominate overtime in which they combined for both assists on the Rielly game-winner, but Marner also added a second assist – the primary one – on Rielly’s first goal of the game as well.
While it likely won’t be a year-long experiment, it certainly was one worth trying against the rival Bruins early on in the season with injuries piling up.
Also Worth Noting…
John Tavares missed his first game with a broken finger. He’s expected to be out for two weeks with the injury, which could open the door for guys like Nick Shore and Jason Spezza to make their presence felt even more during his absence.
Kyle Dubas will have some big decision to make with both Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott closing in on returns. There are a number of players fighting for a position in the team’s lineup, knowing very well that roster spots will be limited in a matter of weeks.
The Maple Leafs went without a power play on Saturday as the Bruins only minor penalty came in an offsetting situation. That said, they did have four penalties of their own and the Bruins were one-for-three on the power play, which continues to be an issue for Toronto.
That’s all for now, but there will surely be more to talk about following the Maple Leafs Monday night matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.