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Game Day: Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room.
Fun Fact of the Night: With tonight's 8-5 win vs. Toronto, the Bruins have 48 points through 31 games this eason -- their best 31-game start since 1973-74 when they had 49 points on a 25-5-3 record.

0:00 - End of the Game. That's 12 straight at home, folks. Pretty sweet.

Yah, it wasn't pretty, but it is a "W" and it puts the B's back in the lead -- by themselves -- in the Eastern Conference. 

After dealing with the snow storm tomorrow, the B's have to face the Hurricanes on Saturday.

33.5 - Save Fernandez. Manny deserves a lot of credit coming in for the baseball-style "save."

2:04 - Icing Boston.

4:16 - Krejci scores! Hat trick! This one was easy. Savard passed through the crease and found David waiting to one-time it into the goal. It's 8-5.

5:11 - Finger slashes at Ryder's stick and shatters it. He gets a two-minute rest. Kulemin also got a minor for hooking.

5:27 - Ryder is robbed by Toskala.

David Krejci #46 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Banknorth Garden on December 18, 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
9:18 - Ryder comes down the left side and beats three Toronto defenders to put the Bruins back up by two -- 7-5.

9:47 - Holding by Grabovski. Boston on the PP.

10:22 - Another big save by Fernandez. Yeeesh.

12:15 - Lucic and Finger got into it, but did not drop the gloves. Matching minors. Savard gets a hooking call as well, so Toronto is on the PP.

12:54 - Another save for Manny. The B's are relying too much on a goalie that sat for 40-minutes.

14:34 - The Maple Leafs have control of the shot chart, 27-23.

15:47 - Manny looks very sharp. He just ROBBED Jason Blake on a partial breakaway.

16:08 - Toskala had to make a tough stop, bobbles, but covers.

17:48 - Fernandez makes his first stop...

19:57 - Toronto wins the faceoff.

20:00 - Start of the Third. Focus people! Manny Fernandez is in goal for Boston. Toskala in goal for Toronto. It's a sold out game, by the way -- 17,565.
0:00 - End of the Second. Thank goodness.

43.4 - Blake scores. similar goal to Kessel. Thomas may have been screened -- it's 6-5.

57.4 - Holding on Thomas. The crowd certainly didn't like it.

2:00 - Kessel scores again. Surrounded by five Maple Leafs, Kess won a battle and wristed it by Joseph. Boston is up 6-4. Shots are 21-20, B's. That was Kess' 100th NHL point.

2:38 - Krejci and Blake get into it along the Toronto end-boards. No penalties, but each man got it in the chops at least twice.

3:24 - Sorry to speak too soon. Grabovski scores to make it 5-4.

5:50 - Okay it didn't look good for a few minutes, but Kessel and co. put in a couple of nice shifts to settle things down. Boston is called for icing, however...

9:42 - Even better. Ryder is in the box for hooking.  Uh oh.

10:02 - Antropov scores for the Leafs to put his club right back into the game.  It's 5-3, Boston.


11:24 - Finger scores for Toronto to keep them in the game. It's 5-2.

12:03 - Cujo stops the Bruins latest with a flash of his (Hall of Fame?) glove hand.

15:39 - Quick release off a three-on-two, Kessel scores his 20th of the season to make it 5-1.


17:09 - Stuart takes on Mitchell and the latter was just holding on for dear life until he managed to get Mark off his feet.

17:57 - OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOh. So pretty. Wheeler dishes to Krejci and David yo-yo'd it and then stuffed it by Joseph. It's 4-1.

18:32 - Boston scores. Savard tips a Chara slapper by Cujo. It's 3-1.

18:47 - Marc Savard is lucky that didn't get him square in the eye. Kulemin caught him high and gets two-minutes in the box.

20:00 - Start of the first.
0:00 - End of the First Period. A good period for Boston, who had the distraction of Sturm's injury and a strange goal to deal with -- not to mention the goal called back on Kobasew.

Boston leads in the shots column, 11-8, the hits column, 11-10, and they lead the game, 2-1.

Toronto Maple Leafs center John Mitchell, left, fights with Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
59.1 - Shawn Thornton (6'2, 217) took on Andre Deveaux (6'4, 217) and we'll give Thornton the bout on points.

1:04 - Chuck Kobasew shot the puck a second after the whistle and drew the ire of several Maple Leafs. Some pushing and shoving ensued.

2:35 - Dennis Wideman broke the glass above the Modell's sign behind the Toronto goal. Only four minutes to change the glass! Great job Bull Gang!

4:03 - Andre Deveaux is in the box for interference. Boston is back on the power play.

4:49 - Thomas stops Stempniak.

6:23 - Oh no.  Sturmie is down. He went down hard, but the replay wasn't very clear in terms of what happened. Sturm left the ice on his own power. But was watched carefully by Don Delnegro and a teammate.

7:11 - Make a wish. Lucic is in the box for a hook. Toronto is 1/1 on the PP.

8:11 - Krejci hopped in just offsides. Shots are 8-8.

8:58 - The Bergeron line puts in some good work. It didn't take long for the B's to get back on track.

12:37 - Thomas looked like he wanted that one back and slammed his stick in front of him. Kubina just threw it on net and it seemed to float by Tim. It's 2-1, Boston.

13:42 - Tim Thomas makes his first save of the game, a dandy against Stajan who looked to go over the Tank, who was lying on his side. But Tim found the puck with his glove.

13:48 - Lashoff is in the box for Boston. Hooking.

15:26 - Krejci scores! From Kessel to Lucic to Krejci, who just held on long enough to beat Toskala. Curtis Joseph is now in net for Toronto. In 30 games played against Boston in his career, Cujo is 15-13-2, 2.13 GAA, .928 SV%.

15:56 - Toronto penalty to Kubina for Tripping. Boston is on the power play for the first time.

16:38 - Chuck Kobasew is the victim of a fast whistle. He shot, followed up his rebound and although Toskala looked as if he had the puck covered, Chuck found it and shoved it through.

But the whistle had sounded and goal was called back.

Boston Bruins left wing Marco Sturm, of Germany, grits his teeth as he is congratulated by teammates Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew after his first period goal on Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala during their NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
19:24 - Good timing. Marco scored on his first shift! He picked up a juicy rebound and corralled it and stuffed it behind the Toronto goalie. It was Marco's seventh of the season, assisted by Kobasew and Bergeron.

19:58 - Bergeron wins the faceoff back to Chara.

20:00 - Start of the First Period. Marco Sturm iwill return to the Bruins lineup after missing the last 12 games due to injury. Sturm has appeared in 18 games this year for Boston and recorded 6-6-12 totals with a +8 plus/minus rating. Sturm led all Boston goal-scorers last year with 27 tallies. His last appearance this year came on November 19 against Buffalo.

Boston Starters: Sturm, Bergeron, Kobasew, Chara, Stuart, Thomas
Totonto Starters: Finger, Stajan, Kulemin, Sifers, Antropv, Toskala

Switching to time on the clock...

6:53 p.m.
The Bruins enter tonight’s matchup winners of their last 11 at home (11-1-1 at home this season).  During these 11 games, the B’s have averaged 5 goals per contest and have outscored their opponents 55-23.

The Bruins last loss at home came on October 23 against Toronto, which is the only team to have defeated the Bruins in regulation at the TD Banknorth Garden this season.

Other stories...
  • Goaltender Tim Thomas is expected to start in goal tonight for the Bruins. He has registered a 12-3-3 record on the season and is 9-1-1 in his last 11. He ranks second in the NHL in goals against average (1.96) and second in save percentage (.938).
  • Phil Kessel has a career best 15-game point streak in progress with 12-10-22 totals over that span. Kessel’s streak is the longest of its kind in the NHL this season. His 19 goals this season matches a career/season high he set last year.
  • Another notable active streak on the Bruins includes Milan Lucic, who has a four game point streak in progress with 3-1-4 totals over that span.
  • The Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game winners of their last three contests – a 4-2 win over the Islanders on December 8, a 2-1 win over the Sabres on December 12 and a 3-2 shootout win over the Devils on the 16th.
  • Winger Jeremy Williams has a three game goal and point streak in progress for Toronto with 3-1-4 totals in his last three games.

6:41 p.m.
Toskala and Thomas led their teams out onto the ice.

Here is what the lines looked like...
Lucic - Savard - Kessel
Sturm - Bergeron - Kobasew
Wheeler - Krejci - Ryder
Axelsson - Yelle - Thornton
Chara - Stuart
Hunwick - Wideman
Lashoff - Hnidy

Nokelainen, Sobotka, Ward

6:28 p.m.
Donnie Matheson
Sad News...
Peter Chiarelli's statement on the passing of Bruins scout Donnie Matheson:

"It was with great sadness that we learned this morning of Donnnie Matheson's  passing. Donnie was a very valuable member of the Boston Bruins family for 15 years, and he will be dearly missed. Our thoughts are with Donnie's wife Jane and all the members of the Matheson family during this incredibly difficult time."

Matheson was in his 15th season in the Bruins organization. Based out of Nova Scotia, he scouted amateur prospects in the Canadian Maritimes.

Donnie was a terrific person and anyone who met him was better for doing so. This is a very sad day. JB

6:25 p.m.
This morning, Coach Julien was also asked if the Savard, Kessel, and Lucic line was becoming similar to Pittsburgh Penguins line with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Julien said: "We need a few more inches for that.  Other than that, I think the damage that they do every night; it’s obviously similar to that.  I know that most teams are putting some of their best players on the ice against that line.  They just seem to thrive on it and compete hard every night.  Obviously the guy who probably doesn’t get enough ink is Milan Lucic, whose size and strength gives them a lot of space out there.  It has certainly helped them blossom."

5:59 p.m.
From NESN: Two Jimmy Fund Clinic patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, both avid hockey fans, have been given a dream assignment: to help announce the New England Sports Network's live broadcast of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs game on Thursday, Dec. 18.

Eric Miller, of Shrewsbury, Mass., and Caroline Fries, of Barnstable, Mass., have been learning the finer points of announcing a professional hockey game from NESN's Jack Edwards, the Bruins play-by-play announcer. Miller and Fries have met with Edwards several times and have been in the broadcast booth during a game to observe Edwards and his partner, Bruins color analyst Andy Brickley, at work.

Fries, 17, was diagnosed in October 2005 with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissue. The cancer recurred in June 2007. Miller, 20, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma on his right tibia in May 2008. Both are in active treatment for their cancers.

On the day of the game, Fries and Miller will be at TD Banknorth Garden to watch the Bruins morning skate and later take part in the pre-game production meeting. During the game, they each will take Edward's place next to Brickley in the broadcast booth and call the play-by-play. One of them will step in during the middle of the first period, with the other during the middle of the second period.

Good luck to Eric and Caroline! JB

5:40 p.m.

The media from Toronto have picked up on the story that is Phil Kessel and, during this morning press availability, many of the questions revolved around the young forward.

"Right from day one when he came to training camp, he came in with a great attitude," said Coach Julien of Kessel. "He certainly wanted to have a good season we just felt with his approach to the game, his preparation to the season, and everything else [that] you knew right away with his attitude and conditioning that he wanted to take that next step.

"It was a real learning experience for him the first couple of years and now he wanted to be a difference maker [and] he’s taken the appropriate measures to become a difference maker and it’s paying off.

"As much as everyone talks about his scoring streak, he’s the guy we’ve utilized late in the game for protecting the lead in the last minute.  He’s the guy we’ve used to kill penalties as well.  So it’s not just about him scoring goals, I think he’s capable of doing much more and he’s taken pride in doing that and it’s really helped his game blossom," he said.

Much was said of the adversity that Kessel has faced since entering the NHL.

"You certainly learn to appreciate things a lot more when you’ve been through those unfortunate times," said Julien. "It’s not fun to be a healthy scratch; it’s not fun to go through what he did with cancer, and everything else.

"The fact that he’s taken the right approach to it has certainly shown him maturing and appreciating everything he’s got.  Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two forward.  I think he’s done that in a real good fashion."

Julien talked about the spark that Phil has shown this season and he was asked to speculate as to the reason for the uptick in production.

"I think he realized that we expected a lot out of him," he said. "Maybe he didn’t realize that all the time maybe we could have been harder on him than others because we knew he was capable of giving us a little more.

"Once, I think, he understood that the reason we were pushing him to become a better player was because he’s capable of doing that, it became a positive thing for him and not a negative thing [and] he kind of understood that we were thinking big things for him."

Julien emphasized that the talent was always there.

"It’s just about realizing and it’s about understanding," he said. "It’s nice to see him [Kessel] understand that at such a young age."

3:44 p.m.
After morning skate, Coach Julien gave an expanded explanation of the Bruins injuries.

"He’s fine," said Julien of Aaron Ward when asked about the Bruins defenseman's workout earlier this morning. "It’s another step towards getting better.

"He and [Petteri Nokelainen] went on the ice this morning and had a light skate.  We're going to try to rebuild him to the point where we can get him back in the line up."

But the B's are not rushing anything, particulary because the veteran blueliner suffered a setback last week in Atlanta.

"He really felt he was ready," he said. "He had skated for two or three days.

"From what we saw we felt he was ready. He just happened to get into a situation where he battled more than he had in practice and he felt it. [Acting] Cautiously, and the right decision, was to pull himself out.

"He did the right thing. Now we just took a step back and we’re trying to get him back to playing at 100%.  That’s basically what it was. I don’t think it was a bad decision on anybody’s part; we didn’t really know.  We felt he was a go and so did he."

Marco Sturm is just shy of being a lock for tonight.

"I talked to him this morning and he feels good," said Coach Julien. "Right now I think if he comes in tonight and is still feeling great, we’ll see him in the lineup.

"I’ll make that gametime decision and we’ll see how he feels when he shows up tonight."

But given the success of all four Bruins lines, where will Sturm fit in?

"Where I utilize him is not so much the question for me," Julien explained. "More than he hasn’t played in a dozen games and we’ve got four games coming up in six nights [games 12/18 home against Toronto, 12/20 home against Carolina, 12/21 away against St. Louis, and away against New Jersey 12/23].

"I think it’s important that we don’t overload him the first game if he plays tonight.  He may skip shifts, he may not be put in all the situations he’s been put in before, and that’s kind of the way I work guys back into the lineup."

12:27 p.m.
Scouting the Leafs

The Boston Bruins know exactly what to expect from the Toronto Maple Leafs -- a 60-minute effort.

"They are a extremely hardworking team," said defenseman Matt Lashoff of the Leafs. "That's something that we need to match, tonight.

"They like to get in on the forecheck and really grind you down."

Toronto is 5-4-1 in their last 10 and Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala has won three straight games, but Lashoff feels like the B's just need to keep playing their their own game.

"I think the main thing with any goalie,and [this] goes into our game plan, is to get people up to the front of the net," he said. "No matter who's in net, that's always going to give people trouble [and] no matter who you are playing that has to be your game plan.

"We've heard our Coaches talk about it since the beginning of the year is driving the net, getting guys going to the net and not playing on the outside.

"That's not going to change, tonight," he said.

Rookie forward Blake Wheeler agreed.

"They play a complete game," said Wheeler. "They came in here and beat us up that one game and...we're aware that they can come in and are more than capable of beating us.

"So we know that we have to come out and match their intensity."

Although he said that he is trying to remain on an even keel for every game, Wheeler did admit that Northeast Division matchups are special.

"Any time it's a divisional opponent, you see them so many times that it definately ups the intensity a little bit," said Wheeler.

Defenseman Mark Stuart seldom needs to up the intensity, but even he understands that the game may go to the team that works the hardest.

"They come hard on the forecheck," he said. "They finish their checks, as well.

"So I think the biggest thing that we've got to do as defenseman is just move the puck up to our forwards...and try to spend the least amount of time as possible in our own zone, because they come at you hard and can pin you down there."

Marco may make it
Marco Sturm skated, felt good and barring any issues, is a good bet to make the roster for tonight's game...Petteri Nokelainen and Aaron Ward skated before the rest of the team and will not dress tonight.

10:58 a.m.
Tim Thomas is stretching near the door to the rink and Manny Fernandez is still taking shots.

So, it looks as if it is Tim's net tonight.

10:48 a.m.
Another funny moment: Marc Savard scored on Tim Thomas and there was a commotion. Apparently Tim had been particularly focused on keeping Savard and his line out of the net -- at one point he even battled the puck out of play

Tim was waving his arms to signal no goal and Kessel was pointing at the goal.

On second thought, I guess you had to be there.

10:32 a.m.
It sounds as if defenseman Aaron Ward skated earlier as he is the only person missing from this morning's skate around.

Marco Stum is on the ice and is fully participating.

10:20  a.m.
Tip your waitresses...
Speaking of the goalies, I wrote yesterday that Manny Fernandez and Zdeno Chara had a collision that looked much worse that it actually turned out.

As Fernandez tried to stop a penalty shot attempt by Chara during a shootout drill, Zee lost his footing, slid into the goalie, and Manny was shoved back into the goal with the 6'9 defenseman covering him like a (very) heavy blanket.

Despite laying flat on his back for several seconds -- perhaps with his life flashing by -- Fernandez said it was actually no problem. In fact, the goalie said he was actually on a mission to cushion the impact for the big man and had purposely tried to break Chara's fall.

"I was protecting him," said Fernandez before adding a chuckle.

9:36 a.m.

Pre-practice thoughts
It stands to reason that Tim Thomas will be in goal this evening, as Bruins head coach Claude Julien seems to like his rotation – but nothing is set in stone.

“None of it is predetermined,” said Julien on Tuesday. “I go game-by-game and you can look at different scenarios, but I definitely don’t make my decision until that game is over and we are getting ready for the next game.

“A lot of things can happen. I think you waste a lot of time trying to predetermine things, because, as I mentioned, things change and you change your mind after the game and sometimes you stick with it.

“I have gone game by game, and the players actually have respected that and have reacted pretty well to it,” he said.

Yesterday, one reporter asked if the Bruins goaltenders' stick handling had helped the transition game this season.

“Yeah, it is one of those things where when the defense is on the same page with the goaltenders,” said Julien yesterday. “We make sure we spend a lot of time talking about and practicing that kind of stuff and it makes it a lot easier.

“Our (defense) is always outlets for our goaltenders and worse comes to worst, our forwards are coming back along the boards and helping out that way too.

“Our goaltenders have been pretty good at helping out and moving the puck, but he main thing for goaltenders is being able to get out and stop those rims (around the boards). Both goaltenders have done a pretty good job of it. After that it is about us giving them outlets, so they can move it as easy as possible.”

We should have a pretty good idea of who will be in net in just a little bit.
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