The story of Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs will be forever ingrained in Boston sports history.
Following the events of April 15, 2013 in Boston and everything that had occurred during and after the series has changed the course of history for the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Down 3 goals in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins rallied back scoring 3 goals to tie the game and eventually win it in overtime 4-3 on a lose puck goal by Patrice Bergeron. The Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team to lose a 3 goal lead in the final minutes of a Game 7 and the Bruins would move on to the second round to face the New York Rangers and the rest is history.
Since the Game 6 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks, both the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs have made some serious roster changes. The Leafs brought in free agent Mayson Raymond, David Clarkson, and Paul Ranger. They traded for Los Angeles Kings back up Jonathan Bernier, Blackhawks centreman Dave Bolland, and brought in Morgan Riley from juniors to help out on defence. Along with those trades and signings the Maple Leafs also lost Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke McCarthur. The Maple Leafs have been on a great run with their new faces (especially Mayson Raymond who they got for a steal at 1 million for 1 year) and are currently sitting 2nd in the Atlantic Division with an 11-5-0 record coming off of a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Meanwhile the Boston Bruins have made some major roster changes of their own. Trading “future franchise leader” Tyler Seguin and gritty checker Rich Peverly to the Dallas Stars for two-way force Loui Erikkson and propsects Matt Fraser, Riley Smith, and Joe Morrow. The team also lost Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, and Andrew Ference to free agency allowing them to bring in Jarome Iginla (who was involved in the infamous Penguins/Bruins switch-a-roo at the trade deadline) and make a roster spot for Torey Krug. The Bruins have not been the most highly consistent team out of the gate in this 2013-14 season. They sit 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 9-5-1 record and have lost 4 of their last 10 games (6-3-1) and have been struggling to find line chemistry with the new teammates.
The Bruins have been struggling to find shift-by-shift consistency. While Jarome Iginla and Loui Erikkson are finally starting to find a goal scoring touch it’s not been enough to keep the Bruins a float through 60 minutes of hockey. However, after an incredibly sluggish and ugly start to Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers, the Bruins started to come together through the end of the third period eventually winning the game 4-1 with goals from David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, and Riley Smith. The Bruins showed in the ending moments of that game they can find their momentum and can find some chemistry to make the best of their chances. But the question remains if it can be held up game to game and we won’t see another streaky performance through out the next 10 games.
The big thing the Bruins need to watch out for against the Leafs tonight is not only the physicality but the speed and the push from the Leafs. They want to get revenge on the Bruins to what they had to go through after crawling back from a 3-1 series deficit. The Bruins need to be able to find their shift-by-shift consistency and need to be able to play shut down defense in the neutral zone and keep their eyes on the puck. The Leafs have found depth consistency from Mayson Raymond and Paul Ranger but with Dave Bolland and Tyler Bozak out, it might give some leverage for the Bruins. It would definitely be nice to see the Bruins punish Dave Bolland and the Leafs in one game but with Bolland’s scary leg injury and Bozak’s undisclosed lower body injury it doesn’t look like the Bruins will be able to do both, but punishing the Leafs should be easy. The Leafs have a lot of holes up the middle with Bozak and Bolland gone and relying on a lot of unproven and career minor leaguers to fill the gaps in the offense and that might just be the key the Bruins can use to their advantage. The Bruins have always had tough depth scoring and it’s been proven by the performance of Riley Smith and Carl Soderberg this season and the Bottom 6 should not be a worry for the Bruins. What the Bruins do have to worry about is Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk and Joffery Lupul. These three crash hard and are dangerous in the offensive zone. The Bruins learned this quick through out the course of that playoff series and now with the Leafs pushing through the huge injuries and fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive in the new division they will be running on all cylinders and the Bruins need to shut them down before they even have a chance to make it through the neutral zone. Force the Leafs to dump and chase and play hard along the boards and force mistakes out of them. As long as the Bruins can generate defensive zone and neutral zone turn overs, they will be able to handle the Leafs no issue.
Puck drops at 7:05 tonight at the Garden. Time to get some raking done