By Ty Anderson
Final: Boston 2, Toronto 3
Recap: Heading into the finale of their four-game road swing down two defensemen thanks to a Friday practice injury to Johnny Boychuk (lower-body injury) on top of the shoulder strain suffered by Adam McQuaid earlier in the week in Winnipeg, the Boston Bruins were forced to call up and dress d-man Matt Bartkowski for their Saturday night showdown against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And it took just 4:58 for the Leafs to expose that hole in the Boston blue-line.
When a simple breakout pass between Bartkowski and Brad Marchand went awry, the Leafs were there to capitalize, as Nazem Kadri continued his ridiculous stretch by taking the puck, dancing around Dennis Seidenberg, and beating Bartkowski by at least seven feet while he was it to beat B’s backup Anton Khudobin up high with his 14th goal of the year.
Giving the 22-year-old Kadri his third goal and ninth point in his last four games, and 27th point in his last 25 games, the first period strike wouldn’t be the only Bartkowski-beating strike from the Leafs’ attack.
In a middle frame that saw the Bruins held to nothing on all nine shots thrown James Reimer’s way, Toronto found insurance when center Mikhail Grabovski easily worked around a Milan Lucic hit, and made Bartkowski look absolutely silly before shooting and beating Khudobin for his eighth goal of the year, and the Leafs’ second of the night.
Holding a 2-0 lead after two periods, the Leafs would chase Anton Khudobin with three goals on just 11 shots when Frazer McLaren was left all alone in front of the Bruins’ net, and ultimately potted his third goal of the season, due in large to Khudobin’s own bounce-in off his pad and into the back of the net. Prompting the Bruins to throw the 26-year-old Tuukka Rask in net to finish the game, Boston would strike back with a goal from Seidenberg less than a minute later, and would draw within one when Andrew Ference scored a 6-on-5 goal with 1:16 to go, but the Black-and-Gold would ultimately fall short against Reimer’s 31-save performance, putting an end to the club’s eight-game win streak over Toronto.
Records: Boston 20-7-3, 43 points; Toronto 17-12-3, 37 points
Key Play of the Game: With James Reimer down and out late in the first period, B’s winger Nathan Horton couldn’t lift the puck up to put it in the empty cage for what would’ve been the game-tying goal late in the first. Instead, No. 18 shot it right into Reimer’s chest, and the Leafs skated into their room with a 1-0 edge after the first period.
Anderson's Commendations: Hard to find somebody that stood out more than the Leafs’ goaltender, James Reimer, in this one. With Toronto outshot in all three periods, the 24-year-old Reimer held the door, protecting the Leafs’ first period lead throughout the entire game, finishing with 31 saves, and surviving a 13-shot onslaught from the swarming B’s in the final frame.
Anderson's Critiques: Following a Thursday night scratch to Rich Peverley, and a Saturday scratch to Jordan Caron, you’d be safe to assume that the club’s top-sixers are ‘safe’ when it comes to being sent a message by coach Claude Julien.
But if the Bruins are to snap out of a funk that’s resulted in just one victory in their last four games, a benching for top-line wingers Nathan Horton or Milan Lucic may be the real message that needs to be sent. It was yet another game to forget for the giants on the B’s top line, as they both finished with nothing to show for themselves outside of Grabovski’s shake-off of a Lucic hit and Hoton’s inability to put one in an empty net, bumping their March run up to a woeful one goal in 13 games. Just how much longer can the B’s survive with such ineffectiveness from the duo? To put it simply, they can’t.
Notes: Dennis Seidenberg’s goal tonight gave him two goals in as many games, and it was the fourth run of that nature since the German-born defensemen came to Boston in 2010. That means that eight of Seidenberg’s 16 goals as a Bruin have come in back-to-back fashion. That’s half!
Final Thoughts: Everybody knew that the month of March would be rough on the Bruins, but did people envision it being this bad? On top of the injury woes, which have now reached four for the month (David Krejci - knee, Chris Kelly - tibia, McQuaid - shoulder, and Boychuk - lower-body), the grueling pace of play thrown their way over a 17-game month has without question appeared to taken its toll on the Black-and-Gold’s skaters, who look like they’re skating with cement in their skates right now.
How do you fix it? Well, the harsh reality is that you can’t fix scheduling. The Bruins can’t really beat March per se, but they can survive it with a solid showing next week, and put themselves in a great situation to add some much needed at the deadline.
Next: Following a road trip that saw them earn just two of a possible eight points, the Bruins will head back to Boston for a two-game homestand featuring clashes with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday and Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.