Toronto boasts a strong start to the 2011-2012 season, holding a 4-0-1 record. The Leafs have a league’s second-best point total of nine and hold the top spot in the Northeast Division. Chris Kelly
knows the Black & Gold need to step up their play to stop the streaking Canadian team.
The Bruins have had spurts of strong play, but not on a consistent basis. The B’s center stressed the importance of playing hard until the buzzer sounds. During the team’s four losses, the Bruins have either started hot and dropped off or started low and picked up the pace when it was too late.
“The losses we’ve had — a 60-minute effort hasn’t been there for whatever reason; a poor start or a poor finish,” explained Kelly.
Although Kelly and his teammates aren’t content with their results thus far, no one is making excuses.
“I think we’ve got to be better and everyone knows that and I think we will be,” said Kelly.
“I think we just need to focus on playing 60 minutes.”
The Bruins are still looking to find the spark they need to play hard for all three periods. Searching for the solution, Head Coach Claude Julien mixed up the forward lines this week trying to add some energy to his offense.
“I think it’s a rare thing to go 82 games without playing with different players. Maybe it’s a little sooner than anticipated, but hopefully it’s a good change,” added Kelly.
This week the B’s veteran has been centering Milan Lucic
and Tyler Seguin
If the trio stays together for tonight’s game, they could be the impetus to the B’s attack. Julien is looking for Kelly’s vision, Lucic’s physicality and Seguin’s speed to come together and give the B’s some energy.
Kelly has previously spent a lot of time playing with Seguin and knows he has the capability to be an explosive, break-out player.
“With Tyler, he can skate extremely well, shoot the puck really well and get to those places that you need to score goals.”
Although Lucic hasn’t played in a game as Kelly’s wing, his new center isn’t worried about finding chemistry.
“Luch plays the game the way it should be played. He’s up and down the ice, he plays his position, he works hard in both ends, so I don’t see it being much of a problem,” added Kelly.
In addition to potential new lines, many eyes will be focused on a familiar face returning to the TD Garden.
Former Bruin Phil Kessel will skate with a blue and white jersey tonight, looking to lead the Leafs to their fifth win of the season.
Kessel was selected by the Bruins as the 5th overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The right-wing played three seasons in Boston before being traded in 2009 to Toronto for three high draft picks (including one that produced Seguin).
Kessel has had his way with goaltenders so far this season. The Maple Leafs 24-year-old leads the NHL in both goals (7) and points (12).
Being on the same side of the ice, Brad Marchand
may be seeing a lot of Phil Kessel in tonight’s contest. Although Marchand knows what the NHL leader-board reads, he just focuses on out-working his opponent, regardless of their name.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re up against - you want to put your best effort forward,” explained Marchand.
“Every time you’re out on the ice against someone you want to be better than them and you want to play harder than them and try to shut the other guy down.”
The B’s left wing could be a major contributor to shutting down Kessel and Toronto’s other weapons. Marchand is infamous for throwing other players off of their game by frustrating them with his speed and aggressiveness.
And like Chris Kelly
, Marchand wants to play his game on every shift.
“I think the biggest thing you can do is try and put a consistent effort on the ice every night,” added Marchand.
“It’s a challenge and it’s something you look forward to every night.”
The Maple Leafs have shown that they made the most of this off-season. Toronto missed the playoffs by 8 points last season and looks to set a new tone in 2011-2012.
With major improvements over the last few seasons, the Leafs appear to be brewing a rivalry with the Black & Gold.
“Being one of the "Original Six" — it’s always fun to play against teams like that. It’s always fun playing against Canadian team, there seems to be a little bit more hype around them,” said Marchand, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The two teams look to renew a heated history as they hit the ice for a 7:00 p.m. puck-drop. Considering Toronto’s recent success, the B’s know a win could be a great way to get things rolling again. ---John Griffin