We’ll share points after every game throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs season.
Though they are dealing with injuries and sudden inconsistencies themselves, the Boston Bruins, and the real nightmarish qualities they have about them, would be included among the last things the Toronto Maple Leafs would want to encounter one day after scrapping practice to address recent failures in a team meeting, and also losing another key contributor to an indefinite absence to injury.
And if the feeling was indeed dread, it would have been experienced for a legitimate reason, as the Bruins found another way to demoralize their division rivals Friday night, pulling away late and eventually taking an evenly-contested matchup 4-2 in Toronto.
Suffering a fourth consecutive loss, the Maple Leafs fell to a concerning 9-7-4 on the season, and seem to be pushing further and further from an answer for their woes.
What’s next is a six-game stretch on the road beginning tomorrow night in Pittsburgh with farmhand Kasimir Kaskisuo receiving his first career start.
White-knuckle time, indeed.
Until then, three points:
First Point: Rebound control
It wasn’t that Brad Marchand was allowed the time and space. It’s that he was allowed so much of it that he had opportunities from his opportunities.
In the end the difference in a game that entered the third period tied at one was a pair of goals from the Bruins forward most synonymous with those Boston terrors.
Marchand struck first 11 seconds into the third when the Bruins ran a set piece to create an attacking lane for the scoring winger from the face off. Wheeling through center ice and collecting a pass, Marchand stormed toward Morgan Rielly, who failed to read the play developing in front of him and could not close his gap.
Marchand flew past the struggling Maple Leafs defenseman and had two shots on Frederik Andersen, beating him on the second try.
Just under five minutes later, after the Leafs had answered his first, Marchand deceived the Toronto’s defense again.
Creeping over the blue line as the Bruins established the zone, Marchand slid toward the slot and received a pass from Charlie Coyle. With all five Leafs collapsed and stationary, Marchand pivoted backwards and sliced through the first layer of the defensive structure to open a shooting lane. Again, he was first to hop on the rebound when the last two defenders were caught in a standstill trying to clean up the front of the net.
You have to concede that Marchand and the Bruins’ top line will generate its looks. So it’s imperative that the defense holds up enough to at least be in position to support the netminder when he does his job by making the initial save.
Second Point: Matthews leading the charge
David Pastrnak’s Hart Trophy pick looked the part again tonight.
As the Maple Leafs’ scoring depth continues to struggle to hold up its end of the bargain, Auston Matthews continues to shine for the Maple Leafs. Lauded earlier in the morning for his tracking, his two-way contributions and his skating, Matthews was mostly an offensive force versus the Bruins.
Scoring his 14th of the season with a deflection on a puck heading well wide, Matthews extended his points streak to six games and now has three goals and eight assists in seven games through the month of November.
He finished the contest with five shots and a game-high 12 attempts at goal.
Third Point: New lease on life
With Mitch Marner and Alexander Kerfoot out indefinitely, and now Trevor Moore having to miss time with a shoulder injury, Jason Spezza won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon.
As much as that might irk the coaching staff, Spezza did have moments in his elevated role versus the Bruins, and demonstrated that he still has the potential to help this team.
While it was a third-line responsibility tonight, we saw the makings of an intriguing fourth-line option when healthy bodies are re-inserted into the lineup with Spezza centering Nic Petan and Ilya Mikheyev against Boston.
Frederik Gauthier, Nick Shore and Dmytro Timashov have been given more opportunity than both Spezza and Petan to this point, but it exists now in the form of top-nine minutes for two players that have greater potential from an offensive standpoint.
It’s a new lease on life for two Leafs that if it weren’t for injuries, might have been buried in the minors by now.
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