Knee Jerk Reaction: Leafs go down swinging against the Bruins

Photo credit:Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Richard
1 month ago
With another playoff matchup against the Bruins looming on the horizon, the Leafs came into Thursday’s contest against the Bruins looking to send a message after a lacklustre defeat at the hands of the very same team earlier this week. They came out of the gates with a physical intensity that they carried through most of the game, but it wasn’t enough to earn their first win against Boston in the last two seasons.
The Leafs got burned by their aggression early in the game as Jake McCabe delivered a pair of crosschecks to Jake DeBrusk and Brad Marchand, resulting in a 5-on-3 powerplay for the Bruins. They held their own through the first minute and a half of the penalty kill, but Timothy Liljegren failed to capitalize on an opportunity to clear the puck, and David Pastrnak made them pay to open the scoring less than six minutes into the game.
After struggling mightily in Monday’s loss to the Bruins, it was another rough night for Liljegren, and on the same day that the Leafs acquired another battle-tested, veteran defenceman in Joel Edmundson. Edmundson’s presence would have been welcomed in Thursday’s heated affair, not only because of how chippy things got between the two original six rivals but because of the Leafs’ continued struggles on the penalty kill.
Trent Frederic was given a gift when he made it 2-0 off a turnover by William Nylander that led to a breakaway, but Mitch Marner quickly brought the Leafs back within one, salvaging a powerplay that looked disjointed for most of the night. The momentum seemed to be turning in the Leafs’ favour – aided in part by a spirited tilt that saw Tyler Bertuzzi get the better of Parker Wotherspoon – before John Tavares took a high-sticking penalty in the offensive zone that led to Morgan Geekie restoring Boston’s two-goal lead.
A weak floater off the stick of Brandon Carlo found the back of the net just over a minute later to put the Bruins up 4-1 heading into the intermission, effectively sealing the game, but the Leafs were still hungry for their pound of flesh.
Shortly after the skirmish incited by McCabe in the first period, Brad Marchand accidentally (?) collided with an unsuspecting Matthew Knies, knocking the rookie out for the rest of the game. With the game out of reach in the third period, Max Domi took it upon himself to seek revenge on Marchand, who wasn’t willing to oblige. After serving his penalty, Domi wasn’t going to take no for an answer from Charlie McAvoy as the two mixed it up in the dying minutes of the game, leading to one more scrum before the final horn.
It was another disappointing loss against a Bruins team that has had the Leafs’ number for the last two years, now winners of seven straight between the two clubs, but this one felt a little different in the way that Toronto not only responded to the physicality but initiated it as well. The Leafs weren’t at their best, perhaps partially due to the flu bug that is running through their locker room, and they’ll have to get back to the drawing board to turn the tide against their longtime nemesis, but at least they sent the message that this iteration of the team won’t be pushed around as easily.
The Leafs proved on Thursday that they can match the intensity and physicality that is required to win a hard-fought playoff series, but they still have plenty to prove against this Bruins team and they’ll have to wait for the playoffs for their next opportunity at redemption.

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