TORONTO The Bruins are certainly aware of how bad things looked against the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night, but theyre ready to move on to their next divisional challenge against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Theyre expecting things wont be as messy defensively as they were against the Sabres while also paying the proper respect to a team they swept in six games last season while outscoring them by a 36-10 margin.
Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that kind of domination can stick in the minds of an aggrieved opponent, and it wont feed into the Bruins potentially underestimating their opponent. That shouldnt be a worry either way given the bad taste Boston still has in their mouths after the loss to Buffalo that saw both Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton go down with injuries.
Right now were seeing a team thats competing extremely hard and playing well. Theyre making strides in the right direction, said Claude Julien. One thing we dont do is underestimate your opponent so you never go out there and get surprised by the team youre playing against.
Tyler Seguin led the Bruins with seven goals against the Leafs team that traded the draft pick used for him for Phil Kessel, and had a hat trick at Air Canada Centre that served as the sweetest homecoming he could have possibly imagined. The 21-year-old knows that his team Bruins team will be facing a stiff challenge, particularly with the Leafs picking up tough guy Frazer McLaren on waivers in time for the game.
Its a new year. We know theyre a better team and this year theyre going to be a little grittier, said Seguin. Were definitely going to be prepared for that and were looking to get off to a good start.
Milan Lucic told reporters prior to Saturdays game that McLaren was the only guy that ever got the best of him when he was terrorizing the junior hockey ranks for the Vancouver Giants.
We had a few tussles in juniorthree of them, said Lucic. Hes the only guy thats ever put me on my back in a fight.
The bottom line is that after playing a tough, gritty game against Buffalo on Thursday night, another physical test awaits them Saturday night against a Maple Leafs team thirsty for payback. Dion Phaneuf is at the top of the list after having a rough go of it against Boston as top defensemen pairing last season.
Whether youre playing Boston or New York or any other teamits a new year. Last year is last year, said Phaneuf. We know what happened and were not happy about it. But its a new year. We need to concentrate on playing our system and playing our kind of game.
What the Bruins dont want to happen: watch as Dougie Hamilton, Tyler Seguin and Tuukka Rask all produce at a high level in the game and cause the Toronto fan base to turn on their team in yet another frustrating defeat at the hands of the Black and Gold big brother on the block.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Chris Bourque gets a chance to jump back into the lineup after getting scratched Thursday night against the Sabres, and will lineup with third line teammates Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Perhaps sitting and watching from the ninth floor on Thursday night has helped Bourque take a deep breath after going scoreless in six games with a minus-4 and only three shots on net while averaging 12 minutes of ice time per game. Bourque could really use an offensive burst to ease the self-induced pressure and both Kelly and Peverley are coming off their best games of the season against Buffalo.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: If we win against Toronto it gives us a chance to finish a 4-game stretch this week at 3-1. If we lose we finish with a 2-2 record, and for us thats not good enough. Claude Julien on the importance of finishing up the week strong with a big win against the Leafs on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.
KEY MATCHUP: Dion Phaneuf is a team-worst minus-6 for the Maple Leafs, and it will be his charge to stop Bostons trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. Phaneuf still has the scorch marks on his body from last years six games against the Black and Gold when he finished with a pair of assists and a minus-10 in six games against the Bruins. Meanwhile Seguin went wild with seven goals and 11 points in six games against the hometown Leafs club that he grew up rooting for.
STAT TO WATCH: minus-18 the career plusminus for Phil Kessel in 18 career games against the Bruins that includes only three goals against Boston. Kessel was a minus-11 against the Bruins just last year alone.
INJURIES: The Bruins are without Shawn Thornton (concussion) and Daniel Paille (upper body injury as a result of a high stick) after both Bs fourth line players didnt make the trip to Toronto. The Maple Leafs are without Joffrey Lupul (broken forearm), Clarke MacArthur (lacerated pinkie) and Mike Brown (shoulder) for Saturday nights game.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is coming off six goals allowed on 31 shots against the Sabres, though nearly all of that damage was from extremely shoddy defense played in front of him. On the season Rask is 4-1-1 and has been consistently outstanding outside of the one hiccup against Buffalo. James Reimer is 3-1 in five games for the Leafs this season, and is likely to get the start given that he has outplayed Ben Scrivens in the early going this season. Even so this is an area the Bruins should have an advantage headed into the game.