BRUINS (39-28-8) at MAPLE LEAFS (27-35-11)
Sometimes the game hockey can take away more than we bargain for. It is with great sadness that NCAA referee Oliver “Butch” Mousseaux has passed away. During pre-game warm-ups on March 18th the 48 year old slipped and struck his head on the ice. He never regained consciousness. Condolences to the Mousseaux family. As a direct result of this incident, rule changes are being implemented to make helmets mandatory for all on ice personnel at all times at the NCAA level.
Tonight the much hated Boston Bruins visit the ACC as Toronto closes out a six game home stand. The game holds an annual significance as Boston fights to keep a tenuous grip for their playoff spot while the Leafs players continue to play spoiler and hone their NHL game.
This will be the final meeting this season between these two division rivals with Boston holding a 3-1 edge in the season series.
Many still have that bitter taste in their mouth after that infamous game seven third period collapse three years ago. Stopping the Bruins from gaining two points tonight will not take that taste away but may offer a small moral victory as the scorched earth rebuild season one approach comes to an end for the Leafs.
The Bruins are 3-5-2 over the past ten games and has lost five in a row.. This has caused concern for Boston coach Claude Julien and said so publicly a few days back. “This has to turn around quickly” he said and with just 7 games remaining in the Bruins regular season there is not much wiggle to continue faltering. Especially with Detroit just one point back and also has a game in hand.
Boston’s run of playoff and championship success appears to have lost it’s traction. Missing the playoffs last year and very much in danger of missing again this year it is only a matter of time before they take on their own rebuild. It happens in hockey. All Stanley Cup winners eventually lose their mojo and are forced to hit the reset button.. It is happening to Boston now, Detroit is finding it’s way, eventually Chicago will endure the same fate. All elite teams will eventually face the reality of aging and depleted skills on their club.
The Maple Leafs have taken this theory to the extreme. The results this year are encouraging and has gained a bit of a buzz as Leafs fans are taking notice. With so many coming up from the Marlies, one now has to use fingers, toes and an Abacus to keep track of the numbers.
Three straight wins and a 6-3-1 record over the past ten is good reason for optimism. Unlike this time last year, there is no late season collapse due to player efforts and attitudes. This Leafs team plays hard every night, executes Babcock’s game plan and makes an honest attempt to win every game.
William Nylander is finding his game and that is good news for the highly touted forward. Five points in the past 3 games and perhaps more importantly a +3 in that time. A good NHL player can put the puck in the net. A great NHL player can also contribute away from the puck. Nylander has been showing some glimpses that he can become a great player.
This new team attitude is bearing fruit and again has some hockey circles saying the Leafs will make the playoffs next year. While that should be the goal of any team, it may be a bit too soon to make such predictions. Nobody has made the club for next year yet. This team will likely look quite different come next October.
Happy belated 30th birthday to Tyler Bozak. At 30 years old he is now the 2nd oldest player on the roster behind 33 year old Brad Boyes. Nice to see Bozak returning to the lineup earlier this week.
Enjoy the game tonight.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Michael Grabner – Nazem Kadri – Milan Michalek
Zach Hyman – William Nylander – PA Parenteau
Colin Greening – Brooks Laich – Ben Smith
Connor Brown – Tyler Bozak – Brad Boyes
Morgan Rielly – Martin Marincin
Jake Gardiner – Connor Carrick
Rinat Valiev – Frank Corrado
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Lee Stempniak
Frank Vatrano – David Krejci – Loui Eriksson
Matt Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – David Pastrnak
Landon Ferraro – Noel Acciari – Jimmy Hayes
Zdeno Chara – Kevan Miller
Joe Morrow – Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Gdiff (5v5) — -25
Gdiff (All) — -34
CF% (5v5) – 51.8
PP% – 15.2
PK% – 80.7
Gdiff (5v5) — +8
Gdiff (All) — +10
CF% (5v5) – 48.8
PP% – 20.3
PK% – 82.3