BOSTON, MA – Phil Kessel’s first shift of the night might have been one of his shortest. After the Toronto forward started the game with the opening puck drop, he soon after hopped over the boards for a shift change to avoid Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
The adjustment was one of a few the Maple Leafs made in Game 2, as it is now the Bruins turn in the series to, after the Leafs dealt the B’s a 4-2 setback the even the series at a game apiece.
“They were better, there’s no doubt there, and they played a much better game than they did in Game 1 and we didn’t play quite as well as we did in the first game,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien after the game. “Certainly, they made some adjustments; we were prepared for those kinds of adjustments, but I think our execution wasn’t as good tonight.”
Both teams came out with high paced and high intensity hockey, leading to a back-and-forth first period that ended with neither team registering a goal. The Bruins took the lead in the second period, but Toronto rebounded as they used a transition game to create scoring chances.
“I didn’t notice that they were a faster team,” said B’s defenseman Johnny Boychuk. “They just came out harder. They just played a lot harder and did a good job.”
Toronto Head Coach Randy Caryle said he was pleased with his team’s execution, but knows it is now the Bruins turn to retool, and expects a closer tilt when the series shifts to Toronto on Monday.
“It was easy to be better than we were on Wednesday because we didn’t really have much going outside the first 10 minutes of the hockey game,” Carlyle said. “We know we’re in for a Boston Bruin hockey club that is going to force you to play the game up the walls.
“You’re going to have to earn everything you get, and I’m sure they’ll be better on Monday night.”
Of the adjustments Toronto made, keeping Kessel away from Chara proved fruitful. The former Bruin scored his first goal against Boston since being traded north of the boarder, an insurance goal in the third period that gave Toronto a two-goal cushion. Chara was not on the ice when Kessel finally broke through.
“I mean obviously it was nice to get one, but we’ve just got to keep going,” Kessel said of his goal. “I was switching quite a bit, trying to get away from [Zdeno Chara]. He’s one of the best, right? I was fortunate to get a breakaway there, and lucky it went in.”
In the ebb and flow of a seven-game series though, more adjustments will be made. If it is the Bruins turn in the proverbial chess match to move a piece, Julien knows the next tactical modification may come on the back end.
“The breakdowns that we had defensively were poor breakdowns on our part and we gave them a lot of outnumbered situations,” Julien said. “We have to be better defensively, in order to be better offensively.
“Our team, when it’s good defensively, it creates chances offensively, we turn pucks over and we go on the attack.”