matthews peeke ullmark tonight bug

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins knew this was never going to be easy.

So, it’s not entirely a surprise they’re heading to Toronto tied 1-1 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, even after a convincing 5-1 win in Game 1 on Saturday.

“They’re playing a really good playoff-type game right now,” Bruins captain Brad Marchand said Tuesday, one day after a 3-2 loss in Game 2 at TD Garden. “You knew they would. They’re built different than in past years. They’re playing a lot more physical, very committed to forechecking, playing very tight defensively.

“So, you’ve got to give them credit. They’re one of the top teams for a reason. And then when you add their offensive ability on top of that, they’re a tough team to play right now. We’re seeing it. Even the first game, it was a different game than the score, so we have to continue to be better.

“It’s a very tight playoff series. We knew it was going to be a battle. They’ve shown up. They’re playing for keeps.”

The series still remains a toss-up, with five games left to determine who moves on, starting with Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SN, NESN, ESPN).

The all-time record for teams that advance after a series is tied 1-1 is 354-354, which means it’s still anyone’s series. The Bruins, in particular, are 27-21 (.563) when it’s tied 1-1, including 20-11 when it has started at home. They are 36-25 (.590) in Game 3.

It helps that Boston believes it has more to give, that its best is yet to come.

“We can be better, for sure,” Marchand said. “Some areas we need to continue to grow in. Some areas we’ve been good; other areas we need to be better. We can definitely improve our game and put a better showing out there.”


Discussing the Bruins' goaltender rotation

“Just got to win battles,” Marchand said. “That’s the biggest thing right now. They’re competing hard. They’re getting numbers of pucks and coming up with more loose pucks, which is making it easier for them to break out, harder for us to attack the net. So, we have to just win more battles down there.”

The Bruins know they need to create more scoring chances and spend more time in the Maple Leafs’ zone. And they need to do so cleaner and faster, with coach Jim Montgomery saying after Game 2 that he didn’t believe his team was playing fast enough.

“We need to win more 1-on-1 battles low at both ends to be able to create more offense,” Montgomery said. “Defensively, I thought we were better in a lot of areas that we think are really important. Our goaltenders have been up to the task; just offensively it’s just not there. We need to be better on the forecheck. We need to be more patient once we have it.”

Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk said that, while he didn’t want to give away their secrets, he thought the Maple Leafs changed a bit of what they were doing on the forecheck, something Boston will have to account for and adjust in Game 3.

“It’s our job to make those adjustments going back the other way,” he said.

All this became more complicated Tuesday with the announcement that defenseman Andrew Peeke, acquired prior to the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline on March 8, is out week to week. He was injured in Game 2 and will not travel with the team to Toronto. The Bruins called up defenseman Mason Lohrei from Providence of the American Hockey League. Derek Forbort is on the mend from in-season surgery and will travel but is unlikely for Game 3; the 32-year-old defenseman has not played since March 2.

“It is a tough blow. He’s been really good for us,” Montgomery said of Peeke. “But we’ve played all year and everybody that’s on the trip, every defenseman that’s on the trip, Lohrei, [Parker] Wotherspoon, they’ve played real good hockey for us. So, it’s a position of strength for us.”

And, ultimately, with the physicality and pace of playoffs, it’s not unexpected.

“That’s playoffs,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said. “It’s not a team of the guys out there; we have a whole organization here and everyone here has full confidence in all the players that put that Bruins jersey on. That’s just the way it works this time of year.”