In their final game before the All-Star break, Toronto falls to Boston
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Bennett Jull7 months ago
On the first of February, the first-place Boston Bruins came to town and showed why they are currently the best team in the league. Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak only had 1 point between them, but the Bruins comfortably put five past Ilya Samsonov, defeating Toronto 5-2.
Both goaltenders showed why they have been considered two of the very best this season. Toronto edged Boston 14-12 in shots, and both goaltenders were called upon to make difficult saves. Samsonov in particular stopped multiple breakaways, including one on All-Star David Pastrnak with a beautiful left pad save.
The Leafs killed off an early Michael Bunting penalty and settled down as the period wore on. There were some solid shifts for the Leafs bottom 6, as both of the bottom lines had some extended offensive zone time. William Nylander also stood out, as his puck-carrying skills were on full display. There are very few players that share 88’s ability to bypass the neutral zone.
Stat of the period: Mark Giordano had the most shots after 20 minutes with 4…
The start of the 2nd frame was largely uneventful until a pair of Maple Leaf power plays. The first power play failed to get anything going and the Bruins caught multiple Maple Leafs napping in their own zone. Derek Forbort took a slick feed and beat Samsonov from the high slot, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead. It was the fourth shorthanded goal Toronto has given up this year.
A couple of minutes later, Kerfoot drew a penalty, and the Leafs went back to the power play. The Bruins penalty killers gambled on a change allowing Ilya Samsonov to fire the puck up to Mitch Marner. 16 calmly entered the zone on a 3-on-1 and fired home to tie the game. While they failed to set up and zip the puck around, the power play got the job done.
Soon after, the 4th line (who had played particularly well) got caught out on a long shift. Particularly Wayne Simmonds and perhaps Pontus Holmberg could have changed. Instead, Boston made a full change, and the Sandin – Liljegren pairing was stuck on the ice for over 2 minutes. The Bruins made them pay, as Brandon Carlo fired home just his second goal of the season.
Shots were relatively even this period ending 9-8 for Toronto. Toward the end of the second Michael Bunting was caught up high, cutting his face and leaving him bloody. I can’t recall a time this year when Bunting was more animated or enraged when he got back to the bench.
Stat of the period: Ilya Samsonov now has 2 assists in his last 5 games.
The Bruins came out of the gates flying. They had multiple odd-man rushes, and two minutes in AJ Greer fired a shot over Samsonov’s glove on a 2-on-1, extending the Bruins lead. Liljegren had a questionable pinch, and David Kampf couldn’t make up the ground. For Greer, it was his fifth of the season.
At the ensuing puck drop, Greer and Wayne Simmonds dropped the gloves. In one of the more dominant fights that I can remember, Simmonds spent the next 5 minutes in the box, while Greer took a trip to the quiet room for concussion protocol. The Leafs tried to build momentum off the Simmonds scrap and sure enough, Calle Jarnkrok was in the right place at the right time to slap home his 12th of the season.
During the celebrations, Bunting was involved in a skirmish. The ensuing 4-on-4 did not go according to plan, as Pavel Zacha rifled his 10th of the season again up and over Samsonov’s glove. Zacha wasn’t done there, as a few minutes later he was left all alone on the doorstep to score his second goal in three minutes, and extend the Bruins lead to 5-2.
The Leafs never really got going tonight. There was lots of sloppy play, particularly in their own zone, and Boston capitalized on multiple errors that the Buds made. Good teams will punish your mistakes, and the Bruins aren’t good, they are great. In what was a measuring stick game against the toast of the NHL, the Leafs showed they have a ways to go.
Ilya Samsonov was lights out good in the first 20 minutes. In the final 40 minutes, however, he was far from his best. Samsonov gave up 5 goals on 16 shots, and most of them were clean looks. The All-Star break comes at a good time for the Leafs goaltending department, as it enables Matt Murray to continue to mend, and allows Samsonov to get some rest. Samsonov will look to get back to winning ways in a back-to-back with Columbus. It’s possible we could see Joseph Woll in the other game against the Blue Jackets, depending on Murray’s recovery.
The Sandin – Liljegren pairing had a night to forget. The young Swedes have both taken steps forward this season and have continued to develop in a positive way. Tonight they were both -3 and noticeably struggled to exit their zone cleanly. Their execution was sloppy, and perhaps their elevated roles/minutes this year could be dialled back just a tad. Kyle Dubas certainly has a lot to contemplate over the next 9 days, and I wonder if a defenceman could be on his wish list.
The focus in the NHL now turns to South Florida, as the All-Star festivities get underway later this week. The Leafs return to action on February 10th in Columbus. Matthews and Murray get another week to heal, and the rest of the boys get some time off.
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