Things like revenge and hurt feelings will be the order of the day with the Maple Leafs coming for a visit on Saturday night.
There is little doubt Toronto will have a little extra in their tank when the puck is dropped in Boston against the Bruins team that ripped the rug out from under their skates in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs last spring. Game 7 ended up being the most memorable thing from Boston’s playoff run that fell a couple of wins short against the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final from garnering another title.
But this is pretty much a hammer/nail situation for the Black and Gold, as much as they don’t want to say it. Aside from the urgency of moving up in the division standings and showing progress getting away from a slump over the last few weeks, the Bruins don’t have a whole lot to prove to the Leafs.
Instead it’s the Toronto club that brings plenty of ill will and angry rumblings into their first showdown of the season, and will likely bring much the same to Boston that Pittsburgh did a couple of weeks ago at the CONSOL Energy Center.
Claude Julien didn’t want to get into the revenge end of the narrative, but instead handed credit out to a Leafs hockey club that’s been ascending for the last few years.
“I don’t know that I would even call that ‘bounce back.’ I think they’re just a good team," Julien said. "They’re a team that’s been getting better every year. I said that before and I’m still saying the same thing. They’re a growing team and growing in the right direction. They’re legit, there’s no doubt about it. Their spot in the standings is, I’m sure, very indicative of their play and their team and everything else. So this is a good hockey club.”
It should be emotional and action-packed hockey between the Bruins and the Leafs, and that is the best kind.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: After scoring goals in three straight games to quiet some of the voices questioning his goal-scoring drought to start the year, Jarome Iginla has zero points and only five shots on net during the month of November. With big divisional games against the Maple Leafs and Lightning ahead over the next few days, it’s time for Iggy to bust out a couple of vintage performances while linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic have stayed red hot.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “They’re going to show up ready. We’re expecting it. The same things have happened when we’ve beaten other teams [in the playoffs], and then you face them that next year. They have a little extra juice, and a little extra energy. That’s what we’re expecting against Toronto. They’ve been playing well, and it’s a big game in the standings if you look at it. So overall we’re expecting this to be a big game.” – Patrice Bergeron on what the Bruins are expecting with the Maple Leafs invading with revenge on their mind.
KEY MATCHUP: Just as it was during the playoffs, Boston's top line will be the center of attention, specifically how Krejci, Lucic and Iginla work against the Dion Phaneuf pairing for the Maple Leafs. Krejci, Lucic and Nathan Horton did extreme damage against Toronto’s defense during last year’s playoffs, and typically Boston’s top six forwards have feasted on the Leafs over the last few years. That will need to continue if the B’s hope to win the game. On the flip side, Zdeno Chara will need to have a little more spring in his step if he hopes to keep Phil Kessel under wraps now that he’s started to build a little confidence against his former hockey club.
STAT TO WATCH: 10 – That's the number of goals for Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel in 16 games this season after notching Toronto’s only goal in their Friday night shootout win over the Devils.
INJURIES: Bruins are healthy.
Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Fraser (knee) returned to play Friday, and should be back in the lineup on Saturday night. Colton Orr (undisclosed) isn’t expected to play. Dave Bolland (ankle) and Tyler Bozak (lower body) are out indefinitely, and won’t be playing on Saturday night.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask became the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL after signing an eight-year deal this summer that will pay him $7 million per season, and he’s been one of Boston’s best players out of the starting gate. Interestingly enough, Rask and Toronto goaltender James Reimer are tied for fourth among NHL netminders with a .942 save percentage one month into the season. It will be a big game for Reimer as he returns to Boston after watching a three-goal lead melt away during the third period of Game 7 at TD Garden last spring.