The Maple Leafs didn’t play their best game Monday against Boston – far from it, as a matter of fact – but yet again, their resilience kept them competitive in a 4-3 shootout loss against the Bruins.
After beating the Buds 2-0 in Boston on Saturday, the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, then pulled ahead 3-2 after Toronto tied the game in the middle frame. But despite showing little of the structure and savvy play with the puck they’d demonstrated in their recent hot stretch, the Leafs didn’t roll over and allow the contest to get out of hand when they had to deal with a deficit. Instead, they got contributions on offence from throughout the lineup – nine Toronto players were credited with a point on their first three goals – and earned a valuable point in the standings against a division rival.
“We battled hard,” said Leafs centre Tyler Bozak, who finished the night with a goal and two points. “Their goalie played a really good game and made some crucial saves. We thought we played pretty well, and we thought we gave it to them there in the second and third and had a lot of chances. We were happy with our effort, but it’s unfortunate we couldn’t get the two points.”
“I thought we played really good,” added goalie James Reimer, who stopped 26 of 29 Bruins shots. “It’s just one of those games. I thought we competed hard, we did the right things, and we had a few chances to win it, but it didn’t work out in the end. At the end of the day, obviously I’d like to be a little sharper. I made a few mistakes tonight, but that’s the way she goes. You’re not going to be perfect every night.”
The Bruins had Toronto on its heels for large portions of the game, but the Leafs were able to improve their fortunes in certain areas – they won 44 of 77 faceoffs and out-shot Boston 42-29 on the night – and the overall impression they left on head coach Mike Babcock was positive.
“I thought we played good right from the start,” Babcock said. “They got two goals there early, and credit to Reims – he’s been carrying us. I think we made a mistake on Rinaldo’s goal, and the other one just went in. But I thought our team played hard and did a good job. I thought we had a lull after they got two, and then we got ourself regrouped and played hard. We had tons of chances, neither goalie was having a career night early, and then both goalies played real well late.”
The Leafs’ power play didn’t score despite six opportunities, but their penalty kill also didn’t allow a goal in three chances. That said, Babcock believes there are areas to improve on in terms of specific special teams circumstances.
“Our power play had real good looks tonight, too, and yet we didn’t get one,” Babcock said. “I would’ve loved to have seen us get one on that 4-on-3. I didn’t think we were dangerous 4-on-3. I thought we were real dangerous 5-on-4, so we’ll have to fix (4-on-3). But we had lots of good players tonight. Guys played hard.”
The bad blood between the Bruins and Leafs is never far from the surface, and in the second meeting of the season between the teams, it was clear they’re already not enamoured with one another. But the players appreciate the emotion the rivalry brings.
“It’s always fun to play them,” Bozak said. “They play hard, they finish their checks, there’s a lot of scrums, and it’s usually a good game. I’m sure the fans enjoyed it tonight.”