Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday at TD Garden:
Not an ideal start for Toronto.
One of the few bright spots in the Leafs’ 4-1 loss to Chicago at Air Canada Centre Friday was their solid start to the game – a key, head coach Mike Babcock said beforehand, to keeping the powerful Hawks in check. Unfortunately, the Buds didn’t replicate that the following night against Boston, as a poor line change resulted in a Patrice Bergeron breakaway and goal just 45 seconds into the first period that gave the home side a 1-0 lead. The Leafs evened the score three-and-a-half minutes later on Leo Komarov’s team-best 16th goal of the year, but a more focused effort when the game began would’ve prevented Toronto from having to dig itself out of a hole.
Jonathan Bernier’s stellar play keeps Bruins at bay.
After Bergeron’s first of two goals Saturday, Bernier stepped up in a big way in Toronto’s net, turning aside 17 Bruins shots in the period, stopping 29 of 31 shots through the first 40 minutes of play, and stopping 42 of 45 Boston shots in total. He had backed up teammate James Reimer for the Leafs’ previous two games, but Bernier showed no signs of rust or struggle and gave his team an opportunity to win late into the third period (the game-winning goal from Boston with 47 seconds left in regulation time came following a poor clearing attempt by blueliner Martin Marincin). The team and fans can’t ask more of Bernier than they got from him Saturday.
Coach’s challenge goes Leafs’ way for the second straight night – and for the same reason.
The Blackhawks had a goal disallowed Friday after a video replay challenge by head coach Mike Babcock ruled star winger Marian Hossa was offside. And another challenge by Babcock and the Buds Saturday ended with the same result: a marker from Marchand that would’ve broken a 2-2 tie early in the third period was disallowed due to Marchand being offside. The coach’s challenge hasn’t always worked in Toronto’s favour, but Babcock hasn’t been afraid to risk losing a timeout – and for the second consecutive night, he and his team were rewarded for it.
Shawn Matthias’ hard work yields results on the scoresheet.
He’s been one of the harder-luck Leafs forwards this season, but Matthias has only grown more determined to shake that off and pressure his opponents – and the 27-year-old finally saw some puck luck work to his benefit Saturday when he scored his fourth of the year (and first on the road) late in the middle frame to tie the game at two goals apiece. Now that he’s playing on a line with center Tyler Bozak and P-A Parenteau, Matthias could significantly increase his offensive production, and his results against the Bruins were a good sign.
Leafs’ losing streak made worse by the absence of any overtime or shootout play.
Toronto’s defeat at the hands of the Bruins extended their losing streak to five games. Although that doesn’t represent the Leafs’ worst skid of the 2015-16 season – they dropped six in a row at the end of October – Toronto’s five games without at least a standings point is their worst stretch of the year in that regard. The Buds still have games in hand on Buffalo and Columbus (the teams closest to them in the Eastern Conference standings), but the 16th-place Blue Jackets have won two straight and are now just a point behind the Leafs. Expect Toronto to be a desperate squad in their next game (Tuesday against the Flyers in Philadelphia).