Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen made 32 saves in a 4-1 win over the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)
You remember that iconic rant by the late Dennis Green, right? “They are who we thought they were,” the then-coach of the Arizona Cardinals yelled. “And we let ’em off the hook!”
Bruins coach Claude Julien might be feeling something similar after his club dominated the puck, controlled the shots, and still somehow wound up on the losing side of things against the third-worst team in the league, the Maple Leafs, by a 3-1 final Saturday night at TD Garden.
In a first period in which the Bruins outshot the Leafs 11-to-2, the Bruins held the visitors without so much as an attempted shot for almost 15 minutes in what was a tie for their fewest shots allowed in a period this season, matching the measly two they allowed in the second period of Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Capitals.
But the most glaring number was not that of the shots the Bruins allowed, but rather the zero next to their name in the goal department, as the Bruins failed to put anything by Frederik Andersen in a first period that was unbelievably dominated by the Black and Gold.
And predictably, it was the Maple Leafs Leafs that scored first, 1:44 into the second period and on their fourth shot of the night, a bullet from 2016 No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews for his 12th goal of the season (and 10th road goal).
It was on just their ninth shot of the night that the Leafs added to their lead, too, when Zach Hyman got the perfect deflection of a wobbling Jake Gardiner shot on net for his fourth goal of the season, scored 15:14 into the second period.
The Bruins finally answered the Leafs’ tallies with a smart play by B’s winger Brad Marchand.
With Andersen having retrieved the puck behind his net on an attempted clear, Marchand sealed off any possible angle the 6-foot-4 netminder had, intercepted his clearing attempt, and caught Andersen in an awkward angle on a wraparound chance. And though Marchand’s initial shot didn’t break through Andersen, with the help of a poke from David Backes, Marchand was there for the second chance opportunity and his eighth goal of the season (and first since Nov. 29).
The goal extended Marchand’s point streak to five games, and brought the B’s within one through two periods of play.
But after taking two penalties in the opening eight minutes of a third period in which they were down by one, the Bruins paid, and it was off the stick of James van Riemsdyk, who scored just as Marchand was exiting the box, for his 12th goal of the year.
The Leafs added a fourth goal, scored with 1:33 left in the third, on an empty-net dribbler from Connor Brown.
It was all the support Andersen needed in a night that required 32 saves.
With the loss, the B’s are officially on a losing streak, with back-to-back regulation losses, and three consecutive defeats overall.
Here are four other things we learned in the loss…
Leafs’ Andersen continues to shine against Bruins
Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen may not be off to the start he or the organization imagined, but one thing has held true for the Duck-turned-Leaf: he can still beat the holy hell out of the Bruins.
Having arrived to Toronto with four wins in four career games against the Bruins, and with a win behind a 24-of-25 effort against the club on Oct. 15, the 27-year-old continued his career-long ownage of the Bruins tonight with a 32-of-33 showing.
In six career games against the B’s, Andersen has come through with stops on all but eight of 191 shots against.
That’s good for an otherworldly save percentage hovering around the .960 range.
And most importantly for the growing Leafs, it appears that they have found their answer to Tuukka Rask, who has whipped the Leafs in his career (Rask entered action with 15 wins and a .935 save percentage in 20 career starts against the Leafs).
Bruins continue to have trouble generating second-chance scoring opportunities
The Bruins’ lone goal of the night was an example of the thing that would have earned them a victory had their been a better commitment to it and that’s second chance scoring looks. On a night where Andersen was generating big rebound after big rebound off his big pillows leg pads, the Bruins were consistently either boxed out by Maple Leaf defenders or unable to corral the puck up and into the back of the net. The Bruins also had what felt like a billion pucks either go wide or get heeled off a stick.
Different night, same problems for a Bruins club that’s scored just 69 goals through 29 games this year. Not nice.
Heinen makes return to NHL ice
Back to the NHL after a 13-game run with the P-Bruins of the AHL that featured seven goals and 13 points, the quick-moving Danton Heinen returned to his normal spot (well, normal through the first eight games of his pro career, anyways) on a line with David Krejci and put forth a much more ‘pro’ game. Demoted to Providence to log meaningful minutes and improve his overall game (the Bruins know he can be a meaningful offensive contributor, but they want him to be able to win a one-on-one battle to make the former happen) in the first place, Heinen was hard in defensive battles along the wall, engaged in any possible loose puck opportunity, and provided strong support for his linemates and defense in all three zones.
Still, though, the 21-year-old remains in search of his first NHL point.
But with efforts like the one No. 43 put forth tonight, there’s no doubt it’ll come soon. Even if it’s by accident.
Defensive rotation puts Joe Morrow back into action
Perhaps it was a belated birthday gift for Joe Morrow, who turned 24 years old yesterday, or maybe it was just his turn in the carousel known as the Bruins’ defense, but after three games as a healthy scratch, Morrow found himself back in the lineup.
On a third pairing with Kevan Miller, a duo that has been on the ice for some unfortunate goals when paired together in a relatively small sample size, Morrow’s night began with a bang… right off his leg.
Appearing to have been injured on a blocked shot just 19 seconds into his first shift of the night (and hardly two minutes into the game), Morrow survived the scare though he struggled to shake it off — at one point returning to the B’s locker room and missing a couple of shifts — and finished his night without much of a noticeable problem with his leg.
Did we see anything completely different from Morrow than we did the last time he played? Probably not. And therein lies the problem for the Black and Gold. It’s going to be hard for Morrow — and Colin Miller, who was a scratch tonight, for that matter — to grow if they’re utilized in an on-again, off-again development track that sits either one sit for extended stretches. (And by the way, I thought Miller was playing some of his best instinctual hockey prior to tonight’s scratching, though Thursday’s game against the Avalanche did leave a little bit to be desired, but that was the case for everybody.) There’s healthy competition among teammates, and then there’s hurting your own team with a competition that doesn’t necessarily come with a win for anybody.
The Bruins are back at it on Monday night against the Canadiens.