By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
A noticeable uptick in raw, unforgiving physicality arrived to TD Garden ice on Saturday.
It was an uptick that the Maple Leafs had absolutely no interest (or maybe ability) in matching throughout the night, and one that allowed the Bruins to even this first-round series at 1-1 heading up to Toronto.
"We knew that we didn’t play to our identity in Game 1," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted after the 4-1 Game 2 win. "We’re aware of it and we want to move past it and have a good response game. How do you respond? You’re physical, win the puck battles, control momentum in the first period, attack when you have the chance, puck possession.
"We had a lot of check lists. Basically, let them know how we’re going to play and kind of tilt it in our favor after that."
With a juiced Garden on their side -- seriously, start every weekend playoff game at 8 p.m. and you're going to get the craziest crowds this city has to offer -- the Black and Gold's fate on Saturday seemed obvious from the jump. Because of their jump.
And it saw the Bruins rewarded just 4:40 into the first period, as David Backes fed Charlie Coyle for the first of four B's goals.
"It was important," B's netminder Tuukka Rask said of Boston's physicality. "It’s playoff so every inch matters, every shift matters. So I think you have to establish that momentum and physicality after every shift. That’s something that we kind of wanted to do it’s been working for us all year. So we don’t want to shy away from that."
This was about more than just rattling the boards and rewarding the "hit 'em" screams from the 300s, though, as Boston's approach allowed them to play from the position of strength you rarely saw throughout Thursday's defeat.
By all means bullying the Leafs off pucks, the Bruins were able to routinely enter the offensive zone cleanly, gain possession off some grunt work in the corners and behind Frederik Andersen's net, keep possession, and force the Leafs to frantically search for the relief of a zone exit.
"We’ve done that well against Toronto in the past – getting pucks and bodies there and make it tough on the goaltender," said Cassidy. "Those are prime chances and forcing them to defend there. They have wingers that like to get going out of the zone and one way to counter that is to have the puck and get it in the slot with people to force them to protect there.
"If they don’t do it, quality chances for us, so it’s a good way to break them down. We talked about that. It was one puck possession…can force them to play in their end, work hard to get it back, they lose their energy to get back to get going the other way and they’ve got to come from further in their own zone."
This led to countless chances from between the circles, longer shifts for a defense-shy defense corps, and took stretch passes away from Toronto's arsenal.
It all worked perfectly for the Bruins in Game 2, and it's something that Brad Marchand believes can travel to Toronto.
"I think we did a much better job at creating a forecheck, putting pressure in there where last game it much too easy for them to put pucks into the zone and get on their forecheck, so we did a little better job at that tonight," Marchand noted. "And it’s something we’re going to have to focus on moving forward."
Here are some other random thoughts and notes from a 4-1 final at TD Garden...
You absolutely knew Nazem Kadri was going to do something stupid
The second period of Saturday's game ended with the Leafs down by three, and Nazem Kadri on the receiving end of a brutal (even if it was unintentional) knee-on-knee hit from Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk. Having seen this exact movie before, I turned to the rest of the writers on press row and said, "If Kadri's back for the third, he's going to do something stupid."
I'd say that I nailed that one, but the odds on that happening woulda been something like -10,000. It was an absolute lock.
And now here we are, with Kadri slated to potentially miss the rest of this series with a suspension. Yet another suspension, I should say, as Kadri was hit with a three-game ban during last year's round one series against the Bruins.
It's brainless. It's inexcusable. It's also so unbelievably fitting of a player that wasn't available for comment after the loss.
"I mean obviously the league decides on all this kind of stuff," Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, forced to answer for his player's selfish penalty that by all means ended Toronto's hopes of a Game 2 comeback, said. "I didn’t see it and have it reviewed because it was down the wall from us so I haven’t reviewed it so I don’t really know that. It was a physical game. The referees let a lot of stuff go obviously, but in the end you can’t let that get in the way of doing what you’re doing."
It's also something that these Leafs are not built to handle, really.
When Kadri is suspended (for probably three games, at least), Babcock is going to be forced to play either Patrick Marleau or William Nylander as his third-line center. One is currently looking like he's a billion years old, and the other doesn't have nearly the defensive acumen of Kadri. It's an obviously significant dropoff from the undeniably effective Kadri, who had been utilized as a Krejci matchup in this series.
"Playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs isn’t supposed to be easy and it’s worth it," Babcock noted. "And we just have to find another level and dig in."
Bruins lose Torey Krug on huge hit from Leafs' Muzzin
A downright bananas second period came with a loss for the Bruins, as Torey Krug was straight-up decked into next week on a big hit from Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin.
The 5-foot-9 Krug lost his bucket on the hit, and appeared to hit the back of his head (unprotected, mind you) right off the boards on the way down.
Krug tried to get back to his feet, but immediately fell back down and was on all fours before the B's medical staff attended to him. It seemed pretty obvious what was wrong with Krug, who suffered a concussion just over a month ago, as he departed down the tunnel and did not return.
But Cassidy pumped the brakes on that front.
"I don’t think you should assume he’s concussed," Cassidy said. "We don’t know that yet."
The B's also lost Connor Clifton before the night's end, too, only further complicating Boston's backend heading into Game 3.
"We have Steven Kampfer. Obviously, draw him into the lineup if necessary," Cassidy noted. "And if we’re down two guys, we have to look at Providence. Is Johnny Moore ready? There’s some options there."
Marcus Johansson misses game with illness
The Bruins went through their pregame warmup without deadline addition Marcus Johansson on the ice.
It was peculiar, as nothing about Johansson's status for Game 2 was mentioned before he was not on the ice. But according to the Bruins, Johansson was missing because of an illness. Now, the specifics of this illness were not known -- whether it was food poisoning illness or a flu-like illness -- but it's actually probably for the best that Johansson, who was rocked about four times in Thursday's Game 1 loss, was not on the ice for this kind of nastiness.
No word as to whether or not he'll make the trip to Toronto. (I'd bet that he does... just in a bubble on their flight.)
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has also been a voting member of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.