Bruins aim for sweep of Maple Leafs
MAPLE LEAFS (32-32-8) at BRUINS (41-27-3)
: SNET-O, NESN
: Toronto 3-6-1; Boston 4-6-0.
: The Bruins will be going for a season sweep of the Maple Leafs, but that only tells part of the story of Boston's dominance. Boston has scored at least four goals in all five games against Toronto, and outscored the Leafs by a combined 28-10 margin.
: Boston needs some breathing room as the Bruins try to win the Northeast Division and earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, while Toronto is close to "need to win 'em all" territory on the fringe of the playoff chase.
: Toronto won its third straight game Feb. 6 to improve to 28-19-6, and the Maple Leafs were in seventh place in the East. A five-week free fall has left the Leafs in 11th place, but they are closer to last in the conference than 10th.
The Leafs have won two in a row during this four-game road trip to keep them above the other teams in lottery positions, but they probably need 17-18 points from their final 10 games to have a chance at the eighth seed -- and even finishing with 90 might not be enough.
: The Bruins gave away a two-goal lead Saturday against Philadelphia, but a shootout victory snapped a four-game losing streak and put them back in first place in the Northeast after Ottawa passed them for one night. It was a start in the right direction, but the Bruins are still 6-13-1 since the start of February.
They are also trying to fend off both Ottawa and Florida for the No. 2 seed in the East -- the Panthers are only two points back of the Bruins and have a favorable finishing schedule.
"It's big, especially at this time of the year," Boston captain Zdeno Chara
told reporters. "Everybody's scrambling for points, everybody's trying to establish position in the playoffs, in the standings, going into the playoffs, so every point is important."
: Toronto goaltender James Reimer has gone into the 59th minute of each of the victories with a shutout. Even though he lost the shutout each time, the Maple Leafs are quite happy to have one of their goaltenders who has stopped 63 of 65 shots in the past two contests.
: The Maple Leafs are without second-leading scorer Joffrey Lupul because of a shoulder injury. Forward Mike Brown is also out. Top-line forward Nathan Horton
is out for Boston, and the team's depth has been tested with versatile forward Rich Peverley
and backup goaltender Tuukka Rask
possibly out. Goaltender Tim Thomas
has appeared in 12 straight games.
: Phil Kessel had two goals in a win Feb. 6, but he has only six tallies in the past 19 games for the Maple Leafs. Boston's Milan Lucic
is one of only two guys in the NHL to this point this season (along with Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell) who has more than 50 points and 100 penalty minutes. There have been five players reach those two totals in each of the past four seasons.
: The Bruins proved earlier this season that when they are healthy and playing well, the defending champions are still the team to beat in the NHL. The problem is, they aren't healthy and they haven't been well for a while.
"I think we know that time is running out. With 10 games left, we know that it's important to bring that kind of effort," Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters. "You want to make sure you're playing your best hockey when the playoffs start. We want to build to that, and we've got a lot of building to do."
--- With edits from BostonBruins.com