It’s a better start than last year’s 0-3 opening record (and with those losses all on home ice), but Boston’s 2016 record is back to an even 1-1 after a 4-1 loss to Toronto Saturday night at Air Canada Center.
The six-goal bounty displayed in Thursday’s contest was a distant memory as the Bruins were held to just one goal on 25 shots Saturday, and most of those attempts from outside of the prime-scoring areas.
The Bruins were again missing two veteran players as center Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Adam McQuaid remained in Boston recovering from injuries. The line combinations stayed the same for coach Claude Julien, but the Brad Marchand – David Backes – David Pastrnak line was unable to carry the team in this one as it did in the opener.
Boston did a fine job limiting the league’s number-one overall draft pick Auston Matthews (entering the game with four goals) — holding him to no points and just two shots — but Toronto found plenty of offense elsewhere en route to the comfortable win.
The B’s next head to Winnipeg for an 8pm ET faceoff Monday.
Here are four more things we learned Thursday:
KHUDOBIN GETS THE START
Julien got his backup goaltender action in just the second game of the season, telling reporters before the game he didn’t want Anton Khudobin to be sitting too long. “The longer you sit him, the tougher it is to get back into it,” hinted Julien.
However, Khudobin’s start was somewhat of a surprise as Rask was the first goalie off the ice during Saturday morning’s optional skate, generally an indication of the night’s starter. Rask didn’t practice Friday in what was cited as a maintenance day,.
With Tuukka Rask starting the opener and the team’s final preseason game, Khudobin last played on October 6 with one period of action.
It was Khudobin’s first full NHL game since November 16, 2015, as he spent most of last season in San Diego of the AHL in the Anaheim organization where he compiled a 19-8-3 record with a 2.46 GAA and a .921 save percentage.
Taking the loss in a game that largely wasn’t his fault, Khudobin stopped 20-of-24 shots; three of the four goals scored against Khudobin came from close range. His finest save came with a sprawling glove on Toronto’s Mitch Marner after an own-zone Boston turnover four minutes into the third to keep it the contest from getting into total-embarrassment territory.
ANOTHER EARLY DEFICIT
Columbus jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Boston in Thursday’s opener and Toronto followed suit Saturday, building a 3-0 lead on the Bruins in the first 13:13.
On Toronto’s first goal, a lost faceoff in the defensive zone by center Austin Czarnik led to a point shot that caromed off defenseman Colin Miller and fell to the ice in the slot. As Miller couldn’t locate the puck, Toronto’s Conner Brown beat Matt Beleskey to it from the point and put it home.
The Leafs’ second goal was the first NHL marker for Marner (the fourth-overall pick of the 2015 draft), a hard wrist shot from the right-wing circle after taking a pass on the fly in the neutral zone. Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo was back but left a gap for the shot to get loose; Khudobin saw the low wrister but was unable to stop it on the blocker side.
Toronto made it 3-0 after two cross ice passes had the B’s out of position in their own zone, leaving Miller to resort to an unsuccessful belly-first extension towards James van Riemsdyk on the left wing; van Riemsdyk avoided Miller’s stick and beat Khudobin with a backhand from between the circles.
SPECIAL TEAMS EVOLVING
Boston did manage its first power-play goal of the season after an 0-for-2 effort in the opener. Late in the first period, David Pastrnak made no mistake on a one-timer from the low left wing after a nifty drive and dish from defenseman John-Michael Liles to cut the deficit to 3-1. It was Pastrnak’s third goal of the season, with a secondary assist from Brad Marchand (his sixth point through two games).
The first-team Boston power-play started the night with Torey Krug and David Krejci at the points, and with Ryan Spooner and Austin Czarnik flanking David Backes down low. Later in the game, Danton Heinen replaced Czarnik on the half-wall.
The second-team unit had Colin Miller and Liles at the points, with Brad Marchand, Matt Beleskey and Pastrnak as the forwards.
The Bruins allowed an early power-play goal to Columbus on Thursday, but were much improved Saturday night as the blanked Toronto on three chances, allowing just one official scoring chance.
Riley Nash and Dominic Moore led forwards in shorthanded ice time, with David Krejci, Ryan spooner and Noel Acciari chipping in with PK minutes. Brad Marchand and David Backes were both in the penalty box and unavailable for the first two kill opportunities.
BIG ‘Z’ DROPS THE GLOVES
Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara came to the defense of his teammate Torey Krug, after Toronto’s Matt Martin leveled Krug in the Bruins zone on a clean hit. As the play made its’ way to the other end of the ice, Chara made his way straight to Martin in front of the net and forced a very one-way fight; Martin grudgingly dropped his gloves but wanted no part of the 6’9” Chara.
According to HockeyFights.com, Chara had just one brawl last year, that with Anaheim’s Clayton Stoner on March 18. Chara hasn’t had more than two fights in a season since the 2011-12 campaign. Time will tell if the captain has decided 2016-17 is a year he needs to be more protective of some young teammates around him.
David Backes also dropped the gloves, giving him two fights in two games in a Boston sweater. Backes took on Toronto’s Nazem Kadri in the first period, a continuation of a meeting between the two from last season when Backes was with St. Louis.