By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins found themselves in a classic mismatch on Saturday night.
They entered play with losses in three straight games, still without their two most important players (Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara), and Jake DeBrusk decided to join them with a possible concussion. And they were also going against a Maple Leafs squad that was finally bringing their full assortment of weapons to this rivalry for the first time all year (Auston Matthews is back and healthy while William Nylander is also back and one rich man). Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s whole face raised when talking about the one-two-three punch the Leafs were bringing to Boston earlier this morning.
Now, this kind of situation is not foreign, and has a tendency to play out one of two ways: The depleted team either squeaks out a close game and wins 2-1 or they get absolutely kicked off the planet and get their doors blown off in horrific fashion.
The Bruins actually opted for neither, and more than bucked the trend with a 6-3victory over Mike Babcock’s Leafs.
In a first period that had ugly potential when Charlie McAvoy was whistled for a penalty on the first shift of the game, the Bruins killed the penalty, and turned a four-on-four sequence into a 1-0 lead behind Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s deflection.
David Backes scored a second-period power-play goal, and Torey Krug extended the Boston lead to three before the end of the intermission with his first goal of the season. The Bruins even showed some nasty, as Brandon Carlo and Nazem Kadri traded thunderous rights, answering the bell to some of the recent ‘toughness’ critiques thrown the B’s way.
It was in the third period where Boston truly showed some of the characteristics that have been questioned or called out throughout the B’s recent slump that goes beyond just the last three losses.
Danton Heinen snapped his 11-game hell with his first goal since Nov. 11 on a beauty capitalization of a Leafs own-zone turnover, and when Travis Dermott scored a goal to bring the Leafs back within three, it was a three-on-one strike from David Krejci just 34 seconds later that re-established the B’s edge at four.
The Leafs got on the board with two more goals before the night was over, but the talk of this one will center around what happened to Charlie McAvoy. On an attempt D-to-D pass behind his net, Zach Hyman came in and rocked McAvoy with a vicious elbow a full second after the puck had already left his stick.
And in just his second game back from a 20-game absence due to concussion issues, McAvoy was down in a heap, and departed down the tunnel.
Matt Grzelcyk responded by chasing after Hyman and dropping the gloves, and Chris Wagner looked for an equalizer when he blasted Morgan Rielly in the neutral zone and then dropped the gloves with Toronto’s Ron Hainsey.
McAvoy would return to the bench by the game’s end, but did not log another shift.
Jaroslav Halak, meanwhile, came up with countless big stops throughout the night, and finished the nights with saves on all but three of the 32 shots thrown his way.
The B’s will try to keep the momentum rolling tomorrow night against the Ottawa Senators.