BOSTON — Midway by the NHL season, the Boston Bruins have misplaced 5 video games in regulation. A type of got here towards the Seattle Kraken at TD Backyard on Thursday, their first regulation loss at dwelling this season.
One other got here Nov. 5, 2-1 towards the Toronto Maple Leafs, within the sole sport between the 2 finest groups within the Atlantic Division.
The Maple Leafs will get one other crack on the high workforce within the Atlantic, and the NHL, at TD Backyard on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SNO, SNW, NESN, SN NOW).
And but, as Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe mentioned Thursday, “It is not a lot of a race at this level.”
The Bruins (32-5-4) are 9 factors forward of the Maple Leafs (26-10-7) within the Atlantic, and as Keefe identified, Boston has been on a historic tempo.
“They’re enjoying at a tempo that is the best successful proportion within the historical past of the NHL,” Keefe mentioned. “However we wish to make it in order that they must attempt to preserve that tempo or we will be proper there. In order that’s actually it.”
That solely means Toronto must profit from its possibilities.
“They have been the category of the League, for positive,” defenseman Mark Giordano mentioned. “We performed them early within the 12 months. It was a very good sport. They seem to be a quick workforce, back-and-forth type of sport, however [Saturday] it should be an thrilling sport to play in. I feel clearly we need to see the place they’re at and the place we’re at proper now and it will be a very good take a look at.
“If we need to give ourselves an opportunity of catching them, we have got to chip away, chip away, all through the subsequent bunch of weeks.”
And it is attainable the Maple Leafs are catching the Bruins at a very good time. There was the hoopla of Boston internet hosting the 2023 Uncover NHL Winter Traditional on Jan. 2, a 2-1 win towards the Pittsburgh Penguins at Fenway Park, adopted by a weeklong journey to the West Coast, the place the Bruins defeated the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Geese by a mixed 16-5 rating.
They will be two days faraway from the 3-0 loss to the Kraken, which led coach Jim Montgomery to say “psychological fatigue” as a offender.
Then once more, the Bruins have not misplaced consecutive video games all season.
“It is a larger sport than the typical regular-season sport,” Montgomery mentioned. “We have to get our sport so as and tomorrow is an efficient alternative towards one of many groups … I might say Toronto, Carolina and ourselves have most likely been the three groups which were persistently the most effective to this point this 12 months. So it is a good take a look at for us.”
Complicating issues for the Maple Leafs is the potential absence of ahead Auston Matthews, who has 47 factors (20 targets, 27 assists) in 41 video games this season. He has missed two video games due to an undisclosed harm, after which Matthews awoke sick Thursday, Keefe mentioned.
Matthews scored each targets when the groups performed in November, however that sport was extra about what the Maple Leafs did defensively, limiting the Bruins to a season-low 21 pictures on aim.
Montgomery believed the Kraken did a number of the identical issues defensively that the Maple Leafs did, which the Bruins hope will higher put together them for Saturday.
“Similar to what Seattle did,” Montgomery mentioned. “They have been 5 collectively. They have been over high of us. They protected the center of the ice rather well in their very own finish. That sport, coupled with the sport final evening, are studying alternatives for us. How one can create extra offense once we’re enjoying groups that play tight checking.”
However principally, the Bruins and the Maple Leafs are trying ahead to the problem and to the chance. It is a No. 1 vs. No. 2 situation, with Toronto tied with the Carolina Hurricanes (26-9-7) for second within the NHL in factors.
“That’ll be a extremely enjoyable one,” Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin mentioned. “These are the video games you actually take pleasure in enjoying. It should be powerful. They have been rolling. … I feel we’ll be very, very pumped up for that sport.”
The Bruins will probably be too. They got here into follow Friday with what Montgomery known as “an empty feeling in your abdomen, and we’ve not had that.”
He mentioned it is one thing that would make a workforce indignant, might annoy them simply sufficient to rev up as yet one more large opponent comes right into a constructing the place they have been dominant all season.
Which all aligns for a giant evening Saturday.
“We have form of had that date circled on our calendar that that is going to be a giant one,” Maple Leafs ahead Zach Aston-Reese mentioned. “That will get us going into this little final little bit of season now we have left. We get the win there, I feel it will be big for our confidence.”
NHL.com columnist Nicholas J.Cotsonika contributed to this report