Game preview: Bruins vs. Leafs

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Game preview: Bruins vs. Leafs

BOSTON -- The Bruins ended their losing streak Saturday, and they need to start their roll.
A victory over the Maple Leafs tonight would give them a two-game winning streak as they leave for a three-game West Coast trip. And Toronto is the perfect opponent: The Bruins are 5-0 against the Leafs this season, with a 28-10 advantage in goals.
In fact, the Bruins are 22-5-5 in their last 32 games against the Leafs and have played the stronger, better, older sibling in a big brotherlittle brother rivalry for the last five years.
It was a slap to the face when the Bruins saw the Senators in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference standings on Friday, and theyve finally started doing something about it.
We knew about it, and we were trying in those games against Florida (losses to the Lightning and Panthers last week), said David Krejci. Everything just went wrong, but it was nice to get a win finally. We need to build on that, though, and get a role going.
The Bruins are still very much aware that theyve gone 6-13-1 since the beginning of February, and a single win against a hated opponent (Philly) isnt enough to fully turn things around. They need continued solid defense from the newly combined pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, they need Tim Thomas to keep appearing as if hes found his second wind, and they need to keep playing with the snarling disposition they had from the very beginning of Saturdays victory.
They also need the points, thank you very much.
"Everybody's scrambling for points, said Zdeno Chara. Everybody's trying to establish position in the playoffs, in the standings and going into the playoffs. So every point is important."
Once again the Bruins will be playing on Monday night when both the Panthers and the Senators will not, so they have a chance to create a little more space in the standings. All they have to do is knock around Phil Kessel and Co. one more time in their own backyard, and thats something theyve had no problem doing for the last three season.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Joe Corvo will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season and for the second game in a row. Corvo is a minus-4 in nine games during the month of March, and was a big part of the defensive problem in games against the Lightning and Panthers during Bostons disastrous three-game road trip. If the Bruins continue to lock things down defensively with Corvo out of the lineup over the next few games, its difficult to see him forcing his way back into the top-six unless injuries hit their depth.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Were just one point ahead. We want to make the playoffs, but we also want to have home-ice advantage. We want second place in the East. You could see in the last couple of playoffs that the home ice has helped us so much. David Krejci, feeling the Bs urgency with only 11 games left in the season.

KEY MATCHUP: Zdeno Chara continues to be Phil Kessels worst nightmare and that shouldnt be any different on Monday night. Kessel has one game and is a minus-9 in five games against the Bruins this season, and has never been able to overcome the physical abuse and grinding defense heaped on him each time he plays is old hockey club. Itll be that much worse for No. 81 now than Dennis Seidenberg has been matched up with Zdeno Chara in the shutdown defensemen pairing that performed so well for Boston in the postseason.

STAT TO WATCH: 13 the number of consecutive games that Tim Thomas has appeared in when he gets the expected start against the Maple Leafs on Monday night at TD Garden.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strain) is out for 4-6 weeks and may not return before the end of the regular season. Nathan Horton (concussion) hasnt appeared back on the ice since suffering a concussion on Jan. 22, and there is no timetable for his return. Rich Peverley (knee) has begun skating with the team and could be cleared for full contact at practice as early as Tuesday. For the Maple Leafs All-Star forward Joffrey Lupul is out with a shoulder injury and Mike Brown has been missing for the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: The Bruins plan on continuing to call Tim Thomas number and hell make his 13th straight appearance when he suits up against Toronto on Monday night. Thomas appeared to finally find some defensive comfort in front of him with the CharaSeidenberg defensive pairing reunited, and stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced Saturday afternoon against the Flyers. The matinee victory also introduced new pads and a new stick for Thomas, who appears to have found some luck with an equipment change. James Reimer will be getting the start in goal for the Maple Leafs and has stopped 63 out of 65 shots in his last two appearances. While the young goaltender struggled for much of the season, it appears hes finally putting it together at the end of the season.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.