Pregame in Toronto: Bruins Face Desperate Leafs, as They Aim for Bounce-Back Win
TORONTO - The Bruins and Maple Leafs face off on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre in their fourth and final meeting on the season.
As has been the case - with now just six games remaining in the regular season - Boston and its opponent are in much different places.
Boston suffered their first regulation loss in 17 games on Wednesday, falling 3-2 in Detroit, with their nine-game winning streak on the road coming to an end.
Points-wise, the Bruins still have the Presidents' Trophy to play for, sitting at 110 points heading into Thursday's game, with St. Louis at 109. Boston could also clinch the Eastern Conference with a win against the Leafs, depending on the outcome of Pittsburgh's game against Winnipeg.
But, the Black & Gold also have their pride keeping them going.
"We don’t want to lose games. It doesn't matter what it is," Tuukka Rask said postgame in Detroit. "It doesn’t matter if you win 20 in a row, a loss is a loss."
It was the first time the Bruins' had lost in regulation on the road since January 9 in Los Angeles. Olympic Break aside, that's nearly three months without not earning a point in an opponent's building. It wasn't a good feeling for Boston.
"I mean, we’re disappointed, obviously, but we have to put it behind us and worry about Toronto," said Johnny Boychuk. "They’re fighting for a playoff spot and they’re not going to back down, especially to us, and we know that so it’s going to be a tough game and we know that we have to be prepared."
While Boston can claim a 7-1-1 record in their past nine games, the Leafs are 1-8-0, having just recently snapped an eight-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 3-2 win over Calgary.
"We're much more relaxed and its not as depressing to come to the rink, where we're trying to figure out a way where we can get two points," Leafs forward Nazem Kadri said following his team's pregame skate at Air Canada Centre on Thursday. "Obviously that's a small part of it, getting two points against Calgary, but that's something that can hopefully get our team going and we can get on a run here."
The Leafs now sit just one point back of Columbus for the second Wild Card playoff spot in the East.
"We know the importance of each game and what we need to do to give ourselves a chance to get in," said Toronto winger James van Riemsdyk. "We're taking it one day at a time and we know the magnitude and what we're up against, but we're not going to back down from the challenge."
The good news for the Bruins is, that they're not going to either. For a group that has welcomed challenges down the stretch, Thursday night will be no exception.
"We never want to lose two games in a row, so we’re just going to stick with what we do," Carl Soderberg said on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena. "We played a good game [against Detroit] and we want to play a good game [against Toronto] and, hopefully, we’ll win."
When the Bruins "stick to what they do," they often come out on top. It's why, other than correcting their mistakes from the final 10 minutes of Wednesday night's tilt in Detroit, the group knows what needs to be done in order to win.
"We've got to take care of the puck, get the puck out, put the puck deep when it’s time to," said Patrice Bergeron. "So I think it’s just a matter of turning it around, and realizing that, you know, it’s mistakes that are easy to adjust if we play smart and if we keep playing the way we’ve been playing."
Last Time Out: Bruins vs. Leafs
Before the Bruins started a stretch of only three regulation losses from January 16 through April 2, they were defeated 4-3 by the Leafs at TD Garden in the teams' most recent meeting on January 14.
On Thursday morning, Toronto Head Coach Randy Carlyle was asked if he could taking anything away from that win.
"I don't think Boston has a different game plan than they did have in January. That's not the the way they play," said Carlyle. "They have a template that they like to play to, and they bring the personnel in that either plays to it or they don't get an opportunity to play. And that's a sign that they feel confident in their play, and look at the success that they're having."
Is that the place where he would like to get his group to?
"Well, we'd like to win, that's for sure," responded Carlyle. "We'd like to win as consistently. Those are models that every organization aspires to. You look at their road record…that's a pretty outstanding road record, that's not easy to accomplish."
The Bruins did not hold a pregame skate on Thursday, after they flew in from Detroit late Wednesday night.
The lineup questions heading in game-time will revolve around the starting goalie (Rask was between the pipes in Detroit), the defense rotation, and the statuses of both Jarome Iginla (lower body, day-to-day) and Carl Soderberg (wife expecting). Follow along with updates on Twitter @NHLBruins ^CS for the latest news heading into game time at 7:30 ET (NESNplus, 98.5 The Sports Hub).