There was something different about the Bruins’ and the Maple Leafs’ third meeting of the season on Saturday.
It was the first time Boston would see Auston Matthews and William Nylander on the ice for Toronto, compounded with familiar, elite stars Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Not to mention other key forwards such as Patrick Marleau, Kasperi Kapanen, and Nazem Kadri.
With the Maple Leafs finally sporting their fully-loaded, juggernaut offense and the Bruins still missing key players — Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, and Jake DeBrusk all remained out — Saturday’s game could best be described as the ultimate stress test for Boston. In fact, a game that seems so lopsided on paper should, at the very least, garner some sympathy for an injury-riddled Boston roster who had lost its last three games.
And yet, the Maple Leafs were the team that looked completely lost.
Here’s what we learned from the Bruins’ 6-3 win over their Original Six rivals.
You wanted secondary scoring? You got secondary scoring.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 9, 2018
Here are Saturday’s goal scorers for the Bruins: Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, David Backes, Torey Krug, Danton Heinen, David Krejci, and Ryan Donato. You’ll notice that none of those players are the usual Bruins first liners, save for Krejci who filled in for the injured Bergeron.
“You have to win by committee and that’s what we did tonight,” said Brad Marchand, who recorded three assists. “We need everyone to produce at different times, so yeah it was a fun night.”
The Bruins finally got some players going on the scoresheet, including Heinen who snapped an 11-game scoreless streak.
“As long as you’re getting looks and going to the net,” Heinen said about how he stayed optimistic. “I kind of knew it would eventually come.”
It’s a bit surprising to see, especially since the Bruins were without two of their top-six forwards in Bergeron and DeBrusk. Even more so after stacking Krejci, Marchand, and David Pastrnak on the first line.
“We kind of put our eggs in one basket offensively tonight and asked some guys to check harder against certain players and put a young line together that got us a four-on-four goal,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Krejci’s goal and assist were enough to surpass Cam Neely for 10th all-time in points in the Bruins organization.
You wanted old-time hockey? You got old-time hockey.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 9, 2018
We should’ve guessed that things would get physical once the officials separated Leafs and Bruins players after the first whistle. While much has been said about the Bruins being vulnerable without Chara and Miller in the lineup, the call for enforcers and a more physical presence has grown louder.
Saturday’s game showed that the Bruins can still flex some muscle and drop the gloves when necessary.
“I find that we’re at a state of kind of flux with no instigator, the tough guys kind of being out of the game,” Backes said.
As a scrum was beginning to form around Jaroslav Halak in the second period, Brandon Carlo matched up with Nazem Kadri. Carlo, in his third career fight, tussled with Kadri along the boards for a spirited bout before the referees stepped in to disband the duo.
But that wasn’t even the main event.
Matt Grzelcyk fought Zach Hyman late in the game after Hyman’s incredibly late hit on Charlie McAvoy that ended the second-year defenseman’s night. McAvoy didn’t see any ice time the rest of the game but returned to the bench with less than two minutes left.
“Well, listen, they’re real good buddies,” Cassidy said. “It just seems like every time one of those hits happen it’s our smallest guy that’s the closest guy in the vicinity, but they always go and show up, so you have to give them credit for that.”
Shortly following Hyman’s hit on McAvoy, Chris Wagner had to answer the bell after an open-ice hit on Morgan Rielly. Ron Hainsey challenged Wagner by making a come-on gesture reminiscent of how Razor Ramon would challenge his opponents in the WWE.
“When something like that happens,” Wagner said, “you want to respond in the correct way.”
Good things happen when you shoot the puck…right?
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson with his third goal of the season. Good stuff to stay with the play and knock home the second chance. pic.twitter.com/Sd5qHfmeQS
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) December 9, 2018
Early in the first period, the Bruins had the most ideal scenario possible: Pastrnak controlling the puck on a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand on his left rushing to the net. After holding on to the puck long enough for Nikita Zaitsev to commit, Pastrnak deked to his forehand and had a clear lane to shoot from the slot. Instead, he moved the puck to a now trailing Marchand who was unable to put the puck on net.
Pastrnak redeemed himself with a long blast on net where Forsbacka Karlsson angled his stick for a deflection to put the Bruins up 1-0.
“Pasta seems to get revved up against Toronto,” Cassidy said. “For some reason, the puck follows him, and it did again tonight.”
A similar play came later in the third, this time with David Krejci joining the rush for a 3-on-1. Krejci fed Pastrnak at the high circle for a clear shooting lane. Instead, number 88 took a stride and sent it right back to Krejci who scored on his off-wing.
“Obviously [Marchand and Pastrnak] are two world-class wingers,” Cassidy said. “[Krejci’s] a world-class center.”
Though he didn’t tally a goal, Pastrnak’s impressive career against the Maple Leafs continued after notching a pair of assists and firing six shots on net.