Rask and Reward
Boston Bruins and goaltender Tuukka Rask continue their dominance in big games against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Toronto Maple Leafs went into Saturday nights big divisional matchup against the Boston Bruins feeling confident. Up four points on the Bruins, a regulation win would have provided the Maple Leafs some much-needed breathing room in the battle for second place in the Atlantic Division.
“Gonna try to play with our speed, try to play our game,” said Leafs winger Andreas Johnsson. “To (play) it in our direction.”
The clash between the two rivals was not lost on Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews.
“Should be a game that we’re all ready to play for, bring our ‘A’ game”, commented Matthews.
And for much of the contest, the Maple Leafs did just that. They played with energy and speed. They played with an element of grit they are not known for, leaving the 19,305 fans at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on the edge of their seats.
But there is always that one guy at the party. The guy that keeps everyone in attendance from completely enjoying the night. On this night, he was wearing white, with black and gold trim, hanging out down in the blue paint.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask had another solid outing, turning aside 30 shots in a 3-2 victory over the Maple Leafs.
The contest marked the final meeting of the regular season between the two age-old adversaries, leaving the red-hot Bruins just two points back of the scuffling Maple Leafs. The win gave the Bruins a 6-1-0 mark in the last seven games, while the loss handed Toronto their fourth loss in their last six games.
Rask was sensational for the Bruins on this night. Calm and in control all evening, Rask made 15 saves in the first period alone, allowing the Bruins too find their way while turning back wave after wave of Maple Leafs offence.
“We weren’t very good in front of him there in the first,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy after the game. “He had to make some really good saves around the net. He gave us a chance to win there.”
Rask’s unbreakable in-game demeanour was still intact after the game.
“It’s good to get wins,” commented Rask, who has fashioned a .955 save percentage in winning five straight games. “One game at a time. Try to give your team a chance, ups and downs happen. Just go game by game. But I feel good.”
4th and Goals
What shouldn’t be lost in the victory is the continued strong play of Boston’s fourth line. The trio of Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner have been vital to the Bruins’ success the last two weeks. A slight increase in ice-time has seen them score a combined five goals during this 6-1-0 streak, and deposit 58 shots on goal.
Winger David Pastrnak, who scored the game winner, is ecstatic for his fourth-line teammates.
“We love it so much,” said Pastrnak. “They deserve every point they get on the stat sheet. They work really hard for each other and they’ve been playing good, really well together. Really happy for them.”
Upcoming, the Bruins have a busy week with four games on tap, starting with the Montreal Canadians coming into Boston for a tilt Monday night. After that, its three games against teams playing below .500 on the season (at Philadelphia, then home to St. Louis and the New York Rangers).
The Maple Leafs have a four-game week themselves, including two tough road games on back-to-back nights in Florida against the Panthers and the league leading Lightning in Tampa Bay. Just looking at the two teams’ schedule for the week, it’s not unrealistic to think the Bruins could find themselves in second place by this time next week.
With Tampa Bay running away with the division lead (up 14 points on Toronto heading into play Sunday afternoon), and both Montreal and Buffalo slowly falling back in the division, the odds of a Toronto-Boston first round playoff meeting is looking more likely by the day.
Tough match-up to be sure. But Boston has Toronto’s number. It’s a potential showdown they should be comfortable with.
Follow me on twitter @cbradley2928
Statistical information provided by theScore