The Boston Bruins were able to edge out a very strong San Jose Sharks team last night. That 1-0 win was a validation on multiple levels. First, the Bruins could defeat an excellent west coast team if they played to their fundamentals. Second, Tuukka Rask just had a rough patch. His fifth shutout of the season makes him number one in that category, and safely in the top ten in all others. Third, that the Bruins could mount a strong defense even without the presence of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk.
The Bruins pushed past the sixty point plateau for the season, and their record of 29-14-2 still gives them a two point lead over anyone else (Tampa Bay) in the Atlantic. Meanwhile, their opponent in tomorrow night’s game, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been a team in free fall since their early dominance in the season. Their anemic 21-20-5 record puts them in sixth position and out of the wild card. Their performance has been so terrible these last few weeks it has become commonplace to ponder the fate of their head coach Randy Carlyle. (The Winnipeg Jets record is only four points lower, and that was enough for their front office to start clearing coaches out of the building.)
Leafs general manager Dave Nonis still claims that he has no intention of firing Carlyle. “Randy’s job is not in jeopardy,” said Nonis.(As reported by the Toronto Star.) “It’s the players who have to play better, and they know that. The biggest piece in all of this is the players, collectively. This is not a bad hockey team.”(If you would like to read Nonis’ defense of his head coach, you can read the article here.)
Still, the Leafs are in trouble, and will need to do something drastic. Granted, not shifting Dustin Byfuglien from the blue line to top line forward drastic, but they’ll need to come up with something to get themselves back in the race for a wildcard slot. Nonis has been defending Carlyle these last few weeks. The problem for Toronto is that sooner or later Nonis will need to hold Carlyle accountable for not getting his team to perform. In that aspect, we will likely see a scrappy desperate Leafs team. Hopefully, it won’t be a December 7th two players hurt and one player suspended sort of scrap.
The puck will drop at 7:05 EST, and should be available to watch on NESN. See the game live by getting your Bruins vs Maple Leafs tickets here.