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On the Road: Bruins @ Maple Leafs

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.
Postgame - The Buffalo Sabres will travel to Boston to face the Bruins on Wednesday evening.

Buffalo fell to the Penguins on Saturday in Pittsburgh as Jordan Staal had two goals, including the tiebreaker late in the third period. Pittsburgh scored four third-period goals to rally for their sixth straight victory, 5-2. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville scored for Buffalo but the Sabres lost for the second straight night after falling 6-1 at home to Columbus.

Tickets are still available, here.
0:00 - And the Bruins hold on through a very late flurry. Wow. Gotta catch a plane...

26.0 - Toronto time out. Ward in the box.

53.0 - Save Thomas. Leafs have the extra skater.

1:51 - The B's clear the zone after a seemingly endless series of TO tries...

3:37 - Tim dives forward out of a scrum to poke check the puck out of harms way. Very scary.

5:30 - Interference on Chara. No way, folks. Blake bounced of Big Zee. Four-on-four play.

6:00 Bergeron is pulled down on a breakaway and goes sliding into the boards. Bruins power play.

6:56 - Nail biting time, folks. The Leafs are really controlling the puck and causing havoc for the Bruins.

8:52 - A huge kick save by Thomas. He flashed the left leg out to stop a Bud bid.

11:07 - Toronto scores. Grabovski slam dunks a pretty pass by Stalman. Not good. It's 3-2, Boston.

12:01 - Another kill by TO.

14:01 - Toronto penalty.

14:38 - Another hit post by Toronto, who have dented the iron at least three times.

15:47 - Another near miss for Phil, who hit the side of the net on a nice play near the goal line.

17:20 - The Leafs worked hard for the kill.

19:20 - Grabovski gets a minor.

19:59 - The Bruins control the draw.

20:00 -  Start of the Third. The chatter in the pressbox was that Boston was that Boston was not playing with as much urgency as might be expected. We'll see if that continues. Something tells me that a couple of veterans got up and reminded the B's how end of the game on Saturday felt.
0:00 - Not a great period, but we'll take it. Boston goes into the break with a two-goal lead (gulp) and real good shot at a happy plane ride.

48.7 - Leafs hit the post. Mercy.

2:21 - Wheeler caps an excellent shift by firing a tough wrister on net off a partial breakaway. Toskala fields it and holds on for the faceoff. Shots are 20-17, Leafs.

4:03 - Boy, Phil Kessel is really working his tail off.

5:49 - Wow. That was one of the prettier plays you'll see. He took the puck into the Leafs zone on the right side. He looked off Wheeler, deked and put it over Toskala. Find the replay later. Very nice. 3-1, Boston. That was just what the doctor ordered.

8:11 - Boston needs to calm things down. Tim his having to work really hard -- shots are now 19-12 -- and the Maple Leafs have taken over the momentum. Not good.

10:02 - It looks like the Bruins have had enough of the leafs. Dom Moore just drew another penalty. This time on Krejci (roughing).  Thomas came up shaking his head after one of the latest scrums. I think a stick caught him high.

11:28 - Yelle to the box for boarding. That caused a little ruckus.

13:11 - Bob Barker just beat up Happy Gilmore on the Jumbotron. Snore.

15:01 - Two really crazy saves by Thomas. One shot hit the post and while lying down Tim reached over his head to get a piece. Then through a crowd he pounced. Whew.

16:28 - Chuck Kobasew to the box for interference.

17:22 - A fight that kind of fizzled out. First, Mayers dropped his glove too soon and faceoff was delayed. Then the boys got tangled in each others shirts. A decision to Mayers (he got the takedown), I guess, but nothing for anyone to write home about.

18:00 - A decent offensive shift for Kessel and co. Phil almost had another one, but Toskala stood tall on the left post.

19:59 - Toronto wins the draw.

20:00 - Second Period. Hits about even at 13-11, Boston. I think the Bruins could be even more physical.
0:00 - Thomas is back on track with a glove save to end the period. A very nondescript sessionr for much of the 20-minutes. Boston needs to generate some energy early in the second.

21.9 - Phil Kessel looked pretty angry at someone on the Leafs after a Toskala save.

1:13 - A desperation icing by Boston, who look out of sorts. It might be because the arena is SO QUIET. I feel like I could call out to Timmy and he would hear me. Strange.

2:09 - A little sloppy and the Leafs get one back. Looked like Blake was left alone and he beat Tim. 2-1, Boston.

3:48 - Tim gets back into it with a kick save. Shots are 9-6, Boston.

6:42 - I think Matt Hunwick just got his first NHL goal. He hopped off his post on the blueline and picked up a nifty pass from Marc Savard and flicked the puck past Toskala. A very nice play for the young defenseman. Lucic and Savard get two more assists.

8:19 - These Leafs shoot from everywhere...

10:20 - Kessel scores on a wrist shot. His eighth of the season. It's 1-0, Boston. Savard and Lucic collect an assist each.

10:51 - Thomas makes a slave on a deflected shot from the point through a screen. Shots are 5-5.

12:12 - Icing Boston.

12:28 - Thomas makes his two hardest saves on the young game.

14:13 - Two good chances for Lucic, who drove the zone and fired, the rebound was kicked out to the slot and Lucic picked that up and just missed a pretty wide open net.

15:26 - Chuck Kobasew crashed the net following a shot and Toskala held on. But nobody in blue seemed to have a problem with it. Weird.

17:16 - Wheeler picked up the puck in the neutral zone, fed to Sturm who buries it in Toskala's padding.

18:04 - Lots of early action. Shots are 2-2. The B's looked a little too "fancy" in the early going.

19:59 - Boston controls the faceoff and sends it into the Toronto zone.

20:00 - Start of the First Period. A consistent effort by Boston will make the evening very tough on the Leafs.

Starters for Toronto: Blake, Steen, Kaberle, Finger, White, Toskala
Starters for Boston: Axelsson, Bergeron, Kobasew, Chara, Ward, Thomas

The Boston Bruins report that Andew Ference underwent successful surgery to help repair a broken tibia today.

Switching to time on the clock..

7:09 p.m.
Bruins lines...
Lucic - Savard - Kessel
Axelsson - Bergeron - Ryder
Sturm  - Krejci - Wheeler
Thornton - Yelle - Kobasew
Chara - Ward
Hunwick - Wideman
Stuart - Hnidy


6:59 p.m.
Everyone is on the ice to start warmups. Lines in a few...

Thomas and Toskala are in goal

6:38 p.m.
Thinking about fisticuffs:
Toronto's Luke Schenn and Milan Lucic have fought in the WHL -- that was back in 2005 in the third period of the Vancouver Giants game against Kelowna.

6:17 p.m.
Looking at the Toronto lineup, I am reminded that Maple Leafs forward Carlo Colaiacovo has one of the best names in hockey.

6:01 p.m.
Foster Hewitt
"Hello Canada and hockey fans from the United States and Newfoundland..."
I am writing to you from the Foster Hewitt Media Gondola at the Air Canada Centre. writes:
The voice of Foster Hewitt was intertwined with most of the major hockey events of the 20th century. His pioneering work on the radio and, later, television brought hockey to homes across North America. Hewitt's insightful and enthusiastic play-by-play was one of the greatest promotional tools at the disposal of the NHL...In 1972 he came out of retirement at the encouragement of CTV's Johnny Esaw to broadcast the historic Summit Series between Canada and the USSR. His description of the winning goal by Paul Henderson became as famous as the original "Hello Hockey Fans" introduction on the radio broadcasts in his heyday. Hewitt was elected to the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, and presented the Order of Canada. In addition to his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Hewitt was honoured when a media award in his name was introduced by the Hall to worthy broadcast recipients. He was himself inducted into the Hall in 1965.

"I think hockey is the greatest game there is," was how Hewitt was quoted in his obituary. "It's basically excitement. There's bodily contact, there's danger, not to the viewer but to the participant. But it has about everything that helps to create a thrill in the minds of the spectator."

We heartily agree.

4:53 p.m.

Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) looks on as the puck gets past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala, of Finland, on a shot by Dennis Wideman during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
The Bruins bus will arrive at the ACC in the next few minutes, with the game starting at 7:30 on Versus.

Earlier, I was able to take a walk over to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

After years of wanting to visit and two previous trips to Toronto with no time to do so, it was worth the wait.

While not as big as Cooperstown or Springfield, the Hockey Hall is chock full of interesting exhibits and activities. And I noticed that the museum is particularly accessible to children and has lots of hands on activities that little fans would like -- how about taking a shot at Eddie Belfour, or taking a turn in goal yourself.  Another part of the Hall, perhaps more appropriate for older kids, puts you behind the scenes and in the press box where you can see what it takes to be a director of a hockey broadcast or be a play-by-play announcer.

As a result,It is really worth the time for a visit -- budget two hours and remember to build in some time to hit the gift shop.

The best part of my own visit was that I got to tape a segment of NESN's "The Buzz" and my shooting prowess (or lack thereof) and my "call" of Bobby Orr's goal will hit the airwaves on Saturday night. I also got to see Tim Thomas' mage (I wrote about it going in the hall last year) as well as our own Johnny Bucyk's #9 jersey. Nice.

As I go through my recorder, I hear Milan Lucic speaking about tonight.

"The season's only 16-games young, so hopefully we can keep this roll going," he said.

Milan is a coveted interview pretty much everywhere he goes, but the Komisarek bout and the hit that sent Van Ryn through the glass have amplified Lucic's profile considerably.

Coach Julien was asked about his sophomore.

"He brings a lot (to the team)," said Julien. "He started showing that at the second half of last year...he had a great playoffs.

And you talk about his physical presence -- he's a guy who likes to finish his checks, but he's also a guy who can make plays and he's also a guy who can score goals.

"He stands in front of that net and he's capable of taking punnishment...and he stands up to his teammates," he said.

Julien thinks Milan is a "complete" hockey player.

"He can do a lot of different things for your hockey club," continued Julien. "And it's not just the physical aspect of (the game ) -- just check his stats."

For the record:
Luch has 5-4-9 totals in 17 games. He has 43 penalty minutes.

3:29 p.m.

From The Bruins are best road team in the East, 2nd best in the NHL. Tim Thomas leading league in save percentage and goals against. The Leafs and Bruins have split the first two meetings this year. Toronto is coming off a loss in Vancouver on Saturday, so this is their first game back after a three hour time change with only one day off. Vesa Toskala starts in goal despite giving up four goals on nine shots Saturday.

Projected Lines...
Ponikarovsky - Stajan - Antropov
Kulemin - Grabovski - Hagman
Blake - Steen - White
Hollweg - Moore - Mayers
Kaberle - Schenn
Kubina - Finger
Stralman - Coliacovo

2:47 p.m.
Head coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Bruins head coach Claude Julien addressed the media this afternoon.

Much of the Toronto hockey media have not seen the Bruins this year and Julien, like Thomas was asked to explain the B's early success.

“We grew a lot as a team last year with the injuries that we had and the experience that our young players (got),” said Coach. “But this year we’ve obviously got more depth and handling (things) a little differently because we have four lines that we are capable of using from start to finish.

“Last year, we were certainly cutting our bench short, at times and that’s been a big difference.

“But again, knock on wood, when you have a healthy club you are able to do that,” he said.

And the Bruins continue to add offensive numbers to their very strong defensive system.

“I’ve said that all along – when you play good defense, you recover the puck quicker and that allows you to go on offense," said Julien. “And as I mentioned, with more depth you are able to score more goals and that’s been the difference right now.

"It’s not just about being stingy and just sitting back – you have to score goals to win hockey games.”

That team depth will be tested during the season and, having endured injuries to Chuck Kobasew and Shane Hnidy, now the B’s face a much longer test with Andrew Ference out of the lineup.

“There’s no doubt you feel the loss of a guy like Andrew Ference, but at the same time our players have to step up and do the job.

"Not do more, but do better – there is a big difference there.

"We expect our core back there in the D to be better to compensate for that loss.”

12:19 p.m.
Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (30). (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tim Thomas should be the Bruins starter in goal this evening as he was the first goalie off the ice.

Thomas, who is often given a lion's share of the credit for the Bruins big start, spoke about his team and deflected the praise toward his defensemen and forwards.

"Do I occasionally need to make hard stops? Yah," he said. "But overall...we've played really well defensively, but not just defensively.

"The puck isn't in our end a lot...and we are taking it to the other teams.

"So, that's the biggest reason for our team's (start)," said Thomas.

It sounds as if Tim is just enjoying the ride.

"Even when I am sitting on the bench, watching...we're really working really hard and our talent (level) has really been raised over the last couple of years," he said. "We've become a pretty exciting team to watch."

11:25 a.m.

The Bruins are holding an optional practice and Axelsson, Kobasew, Chara, Sturm, Yelle, Hnidy and Thornton are not skating.

11:03 a.m.
Toronto Maple Leafs' head coach Ron Wilson speaks with his players after calling a time out during the third period of NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday Nov. 15, 2008. Vancouver won 4-2. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)
Toronto head coach Ron Wilson just finished his press conference by saying, "Sorry, I do not want to talk about Bruins players" after one reporter asked about the physical play of Milan Lucic and how the Leafs might deal with the power forward's physical game.


There was, however, plenty of talk about the Toronto goaltender for this evening, Vesa Toskala.

"He's our number one guy (and) he's had a couple of rough games, but in the game in Edmonton he played great," said Wilson. "He was a big reason why we won that game."

But speaking about the Maple Leafs penalty kill, Wilson said, "You do need big saves, most people will say that on your penalty kill your best player has to be your goalie.

"We've got to find a way of getting in front of a few more shots. We're screening our goalie without getting the block, and sometimes we are drifting away from the front of the net and are not in position to clear a rebound."

But Toskala needs to work harder to clear screens set by the other team.

"He's got to fight and be more aggressive," he said of his goalie. "Every goalie in this league faces that and Vesa's got to get himself to the top of the crease.

"Sometimes he has a tendency to stay really deep in the net, and when you are not a really big goalie, that opens up a lot of holes.

"Every team's got people fronting shots," he said.

People like Milan Lucic.

10:44 a.m.
It should be Toskala in goal for the Maple Leafs.

9:20 a.m.

The Boston Bruins remain in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, just four points behind the New York Rangers and with three games in hand:

#  Eastern Conf. GP W L   OT PTS GF GA HOME AWAY L10
1 NY RANGERS* 20 13 5   2 28 55 44 8-3-1 5-2-1 6-3-1
2 BOSTON* 17 10 3   4 24 52 39 5-1-1 5-2-3 8-1-1
3 WASHINGTON* 17 10 4   3 23 56 49 7-0-1 3-4-2 7-1-2
4 PITTSBURGH 17 11 4   2 24 58 48 6-2-1 5-2-1 7-2-1
5 MONTREAL 16 10 4   2 22 52 44 5-2-0 5-2-2 5-4-1
6 BUFFALO 17 9 5   3 21 50 47 5-3-1 4-2-2 3-5-2
7 CAROLINA 18 9 7   2 20 49 55 4-4-0 5-3-2 5-5-0

Three teams, including the Maple Leafs, are tied with 18 points.

The Northeast Division is pretty tight, with Montreal looming only two points behind and with their own game in hand against Boston:

BOSTON 17 10 3   4 24 52 39 5-1-1 5-2-3 8-1-1
MONTREAL 16 10 4   2 22 52 44 5-2-0 5-2-2 5-4-1
BUFFALO 17 9 5   3 21 50 47 5-3-1 4-2-2 3-5-2
TORONTO 18 7 7   4 18 57 64 3-2-3 4-5-1 4-5-1
OTTAWA 17 6 9   2 14 41 45 3-5-1 3-4-1 4-5-1

Tonight’s opponent, Toronto, is trying mightily to right the ship. But questions abound.

Howard Berger, of the Ottawa Citizen writes this morning:
The Toronto Maple Leafs are demolishing the adage that perception is reality.

With a new dynamic in the dressing room -- and with a new coaching staff and the privilege of low expectations -- this edition of the Leafs has been viewed as a substantial upgrade over the club that missed the Stanley Cup playoffs last season by nine points. This year's Leafs appear to be quicker, younger, more disciplined, better prepared, more resilient, and capable of scoring at an impressive clip.

But numbers, they say, never lie.

And these Leafs are not that different from the bumbling group of a year ago.

The Leafs approach the quarter-pole of the season with a 7-7-4 record, which is identical to their mark after 18 games last year. They have scored 58 goals and given up 64. Last season, they had scored 57 and allowed 64. And they are one spot out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the same place they were a year ago at this point.

So, the headlines around here are just as often talking about management possibilities as they are the team on the ice, which makes today’s game at the Air Canada Centre just a little bit more interesting.

As for the Leafs, they scare me. Not only are they playing with a certain amount of abandon – much like the Bruins did last season – they have a lot of young talent, too. As Berger pointed out Ron Wilson and his staff do have the advantage of some kids that are “quicker, younger, more disciplined, better prepared, more resilient, and capable of scoring at an impressive clip.”

We’ve seen that, thank you very much.

Toronto dropped four goals on the B’s and won when Anton Stralman scored with 9:14 left to break a third-period tie. Goalie Vesa Toskala stopped 26 shots and Mike Van Ryn and Nik Antropov also scored for Toronto.

However, Van Ryn is out after being injured last week, and Toskala has been fighting the puck, just a bit.

Kevin McGran, who covers the Leafs for The Toronto Star writes:
So goaltending has emerged as a huge question mark. Vesa Toskala's goals-against average is 3.24 – 36th among league netminders – and save percentage is .878, 40th in the NHL.

It was early on the western trip when some whispering began about Toskala, who has been giving up a lot of rebounds.

"He's an average goalie at best," a long-time scout told the Star. "The Leafs should have traded him in the summer when his value was at its highest."

Fletcher acknowledged Toskala has been up-and-down.

"He had a couple of games where he wasn't at his best," said Fletcher. "In Edmonton, he gave us a chance to win the game because he played so well in the first period."

So now I am wondering if the Bruins might just see veteran goalie Curtis Joseph, tonight.

We’ll know in a few minutes…
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