The Maple Leafs held Brad Marchand without a shot on goal. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

The Maple Leafs held Brad Marchand without a shot on goal. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

By now, it’s widely known that it’s impossible to contain Bruins winger Brad Marchand. But the Maple Leafs came as close as one team can with their 60-minute effort against the league’s hottest scorer.

Riding into action fresh off being named the NHL’s First Star of the Week, and with points in three straight games, the 28-year-old Marchand was held without a shot on goal in the B’s 4-2 defeat at the hands of the surging Maple Leafs on Monday night.

Denied on two shot attempts that were blocked and a missed shot, Marchand’s failure to put a shot on goal in this game made it just the sixth game that’s come without a shot for No. 63, and his first since Jan. 18’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Red Wings back in Detroit.

Fittingly enough, Marchand played a big factor in the B’s first goal of the night, even without a shot on goal to his credit. In a masterful sequence of moves into the attacking zone, it was Marchand that found Bruins winger David Backes for Backes’ 16th goal of the season, scored 7:26 into the first period of the game. That assist, by the way, gives Marchand 80 points on the season and in doing so makes him the first Bruins player to record 80 points in a season since Marc Savard accomplished the feat in 2008-09.

“We gave Marchand way too much room early,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock admitted after the win. “Then I thought we got more and more competitive as the game went on. I thought we played better and better. A real good win for our team obviously.”

The Bruins are 1-4-1 this season when Marchand is held without a shot on goal.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

It was the most important game of the season for the Bruins. Same for the Maple Leafs, too, actually. And it lived up to the billing.

The Bruins and Leafs skated in a playoff atmosphere in Toronto. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Leafs skated in a playoff atmosphere in Toronto. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

It was the most important game of the season for the Bruins. Same for the Maple Leafs, too, actually. And it lived up to the billing.

It was a game that would have led you to believe that it was being played in April and not March. No check went unfinished. No whistle went without some post-whistle shoving. No line change went unmatched by Bruce Cassidy and the Leafs’ Mike Babcock.

It was the kind of game you would never want to see decided by a questionable penalty call one way or the other.

So naturally, that’s exactly how a 4-2 final between the Bruins and Leafs ended in their fourth and final regular season head-to-head.

With the Bruins in pursuit of the go-ahead goal against the Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, B’s forward Dominic Moore was whistled for an interference on a drive to the front of the Toronto net. Matched up with Nikita Soshnikov, Moore outmuscled the Maple Leaf forward, who knew he was coming, and as Soshnikov tumbled down to the ice, the hands of the official went up almost immediately.

Wait, really?

In a game that ramped up in physicality and intensity as it got deeper — and with numerous non-calls that benefitted the Bruins, be it the Kevan Miller high-stick on Auston Matthews, or Torey Krug practically hugging a forward in the defensive zone — the referees chose that by all meaningless play in front of Andersen’s crease, and with 2:54 left in the game, to blow a whistle.

Yuck.

And when top-ranked Maple Leafs power play went to work, they did not miss, as Tyler Bozak scored the game-winning goal with just under two minutes left in the third period. The Leafs then added empty-net goals from William Nylander and Nazem Kadri to make it 4-1 and the Leafs had their first season sweep of the Bruins (more than three games) since they were called the St. Pat’s.

Double yuck. Triple yuck. Yuck City.

“It is,” Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said when asked if that was a tough call against the club. “But what can you do?”

The Moore penalty was not the only gaffe of the night for this crew. There was also a stretch where they blew the whistle down because Matt Martin was back in the Boston zone with a skate malfunction. Not a big deal… but the Bruins were in the attacking zone and had possession of the puck. Martin’s skate issue is not a reason for the play to be blown dead. There was also the fact that the Bruins were on a four-on-four when the Leafs scored their first goal of the night. A four-on-four that happened because Patrice Bergeron was upset after Nikita Soshnikov tried to board him into the year 2018 on a ridiculously dangerous hit.

And as difficult as it may be to sit here and say that these calls did not do the B’s in tonight in Toronto, they didn’t.

In a game that meant so much for the Bruins, their effort left quite a bit to be desired.

Aside from the usual excellence of the Bergeron line, it was difficult to find another line that was able to build off that pressure. With the exception of the fourth line with Moore, Riley Nash, and Noel Acciari — who finished the night with one goal on a combined 11 shots and seven hits to their name — the Bruins got almost nothing from those below the Bergeron line. When you’re a team like the Bruins and your fourth line is your second-best line, you’re often not going to have a great night.

In over 21 minutes of time on ice, David Krejci was by all means a ghost, with zero shots and a minus-3 rating. He wasn’t the only Bruins skater that finished the night without a shot, though, as he joined by Drew Stafford and Brad Marchand in that regard.

It just wasn’t good enough across the board, and it showed, as Rask had to stand on his head for 25 saves on 27 shots, and did just that for the most part, with an additional punch to the throat coming with the fact that both of the goals the Leafs scored on Rask came almost immediately after Rask made a straight-up ridiculous save or sometimes two.

And for the first time since Cassidy took over the club, the Bruins have losses in back-to-back games.

There’s little time for the Bruins to sulk, however, as the Senators are waiting in Boston for tomorrow’s equally huge showdown.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Matt Beleskey will play tonight in Toronto. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Beleskey will play tonight in Toronto. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports)

Last Thursday in Edmonton could have gone a lot better for Bruins winger Matt Beleskey. But it could have gone a lot worse, too.

Late in the third period of a blowout loss to the Oil, Beleskey was working the front of the net when he was blasted in the side of the head by an errant shot from Bruins center Patrice Bergeron.

Beleskey crumbled down to the ice in a heap, and was helped off the ice by his teammates as some blood trickled out from behind his ear. But back at practice on Sunday and ready to play tonight in Toronto (because he’s Beleskey), the 28-year-old felt saved by his helmet.

Strike that, he was saved from serious damage by that helmet.

“I’m glad it caught the corner of my helmet — I’m sure that took a lot of the blow,” Beleskey, now sporting a large bump around his ear, said. “It was pretty funny — you look at [Bergeron] and his nose was bleeding. I think he had my blood on him. It was a tough game for us, but we move on to Toronto and we have a big one [tonight].”

Beleskey’s bump has come with a bump up the lineup as well, as he’ll slot with David Krejci and David Pastrnak on the club’s second line for tonight’s huge head-to-head with the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Beleskey is just another player on what’s become a revolving door of linemates to Krejci’s left in the last few weeks alone, between Peter Cehlarik, Drew Stafford, Frank Vatrano, and now No. 39.

“We need a net presence, a guy that’s willing to go there and occupy people for David and Pasta there,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of the line’s need on the left side. “We’ve asked different guys to do it, and we’ve got it at different times, but we haven’t found that consistent answer and until we do we’ll keep using [different] people there.”

In an attempt to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Leafs, the Bruins will give this start to Tuukka Rask. The 30-year-old Rask was given the hook after he allowed five goals on 17 shots against the Oilers, and comes into play with 33 wins and a .912 save percentage in 56 games this season. Rask has 15 wins and a .927 save percentage in 24 career games against Toronto.

The Leafs counter with Frederik Andersen. Andersen stopped 36-of-41 shots against in his last head-to-head with the Bruins, and enters this contest with a perfect 7-0-0 record and .944 save percentage in seven games against the B’s in his NHL career.

David Backes, who missed the morning skate with an illness, is expected to play.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Drew Stafford

Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Colin Miller – Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins are taking things one game at a time.</p>
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A morning skate at the Air Canada Centre came with an unexpected absence for the Bruins. David Backes, part of the club’s rotating top six right side with David Pastrnak, was not in his semi-usual spot with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

David Backes will be a gametime decision tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

David Backes will be a gametime decision tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

A morning skate at the Air Canada Centre came with an unexpected absence for the Bruins. David Backes, part of the club’s rotating top six right side with David Pastrnak, was not in his semi-usual spot with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, replaced by Jimmy Hayes.

It’s not how the Bruins drew up their Monday night plans when they traveled to Toronto yesterday afternoon, of course, but it doesn’t seem to be cause for alarm for B’s interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

“He’ll be a gametime decision,” Cassidy said of Backes’ availability for tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs. “A little bit under the weather so we told him to stay home this morning, but I’ll expect he’ll play.”

It’s just another obstacle — though not as severe as those previously encountered — in Backes’ first year in Boston, which has been derailed by an elbow infection and a concussion earlier at different points, and almost by a knee injury last week in Calgary.

But given the importance of this game for the Bruins, who are winless in three prior head-to-heads with the Maple Leafs and holding a mere three-point advantage over the Leafs, it’s safe to assume that Backes will more than likely give it a go tonight.

The only other concern that comes with a sick player dressing though is the risk that there’s a flu going throughout the room.

But Cassidy was quick to shut that down before the start of a pivotal four games in six nights stretch for the club.

“Not really, no,” Cassidy said when asked if there was a bug going through the B’s dressing room right now. “Just David and I think our trainer had the sniffles yesterday, so other than that we’re pretty good.”

Backes has 15 goals and 34 points in 63 games this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bruins winger Brad Marchand was named the NHL's 1st Star of the Week. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Brad Marchand was named the NHL’s 1st Star of the Week. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The accolades just keep coming for Bruins winger Brad Marchand.

Following a week that included five goals and nine points in just three games for the Bruins’ 5-foot-9 top-liner, the NHL recognized Marchand as the league’s First Star of the Week on Monday.

The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby was honored as the league’s second star and Calgary netminder Brian Elliott was named the third star.

Marchand’s big week began with a third period hat trick that propelled the Bruins to a 6-3 comeback win over the Canucks last Monday. Marchand also recorded an assist in that game. He followed that with a one-goal, two-point performance against the Flames on Wednesday, and added a goal and two assists in Thursday’s loss to the Oilers.

It’s become par for the course for Marchand, who leads all NHL skaters in points since Jan. 1, with 27 goals and 48 points in total.

Marchand has already tied his career-high in goals this season with 37, and has set a new career-high in points, too, with 79.

He enters today three goals behind Crosby for the most in the league, and just one point behind his league-leading 80 points.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Drew Stafford's wife gave birth to twins. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford’s wife gave birth to twins. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Drew Stafford had a more than good enough excuse to miss Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. Stafford, who came to Boston as the father of one, a two-year-old named Mason, is officially a father of three after his wife gave birth to twins over the weekend.

‘Officially’ is a weird tagline when you talk about pregnancies and childbirths, of course, but it completes the relatively unknown timeline that Stafford talked about in regards to his wife when he first arrived to Boston. David Backes, a fellow Minnesotan, revealed that Stafford’s wife was ‘very pregnant’ when he was moved to Boston from Winnipeg. So much so that when Stafford met with her at the airport before his connecting flight somewhere between Winnipeg and Boston, people were actually worried that she was there to catch a flight, which would have been a definite no-no given where she was in her pregnancy.

And as timing worked out, with the Bruins off on Friday and Saturday, Stafford was able to travel back home and be with his wife following the birth of their twins. That travel back to Minnesota obviously led to Stafford’s aforementioned absence on Sunday.

But it was an absence the Bruins can live with, as Bruce Cassidy noted that the newborns were ‘healthy’ and that the veteran Stafford would meet the Bruins in Toronto for Monday night’s game against the Maple Leafs.

The Bruins are prepared for any potential snag in the road back to the B’s that could come Stafford’s way, however, with forwards Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly recalled from the P-Bruins on an emergency basis.

The 31-year-old Stafford, acquired from the Jets for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2018, has recorded two goals and five points in seven games with the Bruins, and six goals and 18 points in 47 games between the B’s and Jets.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

This is one big, massive, gigantic week for the Bruins. And it starts with a back-to-back beginning with Monday against the Maple Leafs up in Toronto and then Tuesday night against the Senators in Boston.