Rielly set for Bruins challenge
The betting is that Morgan Rielly, who led the Toronto Maple Leafs in ice time through 15 games, sees plenty of the Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak when the two Atlantic Division rivals renew hostilities on Saturday in Boston.
Few in the NHL are better than Marchand at turning the screw, either by scoring or agitating, and he will be looking to build off 30 points in 36 career games against Toronto. Still, Rielly, who is averaging 22 minutes and 30 seconds a game, is not the kind to get flustered.
Here are 5 Things to Watch for Saturday in Boston:
The Maple Leafs, and specifically defenceman Jake Gardiner, probably would like to have some selective memory. The Leafs make their first visit to Boston since April 25, when the Bruins scored four goals in the third period of Game 7 in the first round to beat the Leafs 7-4 and send them home. Gardiner, unfairly, was the scapegoat for some as he was minus-5 in the game. The Leafs have moved on from the result, but you can bet it will be on the minds of some.
With Tuukka Rask granted a leave of absence for personal reasons, the Leafs will get a look at Bruins backup goalie Jaroslav Halak. In 16 career games against Toronto, Halak has lost just three times in regulation, compiling a mark of 8-3-4 with a .909 save percentage and a 2.94 goals-against average. Facing Halak should not be seen as an advantage, as he has been sharp in nine games this season (though not against Vancouver on Thursday), posting a .936 save percentage with just one loss in regulation.
Could this be a game where the Maple Leafs’ power play tilts the scale toward a Toronto victory? The Bruins have been strong defensively during 5-on-5 play, allowing 21 goals, the second fewest in the NHL. Despite the presence of 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron on the penalty kill, Boston has not been stellar, allowing 11 power-play goals on 49 opposition chances. At the same time, the Bruins, led by Bergeron, are one of the NHL’s top power-play clubs.
Whenever the Leafs and Bruins have met in highintensity games — or any time during the regular season — Patrice Bergeron has been a factor. Whether it’s Nazem Kadri or John Tavares who gets the matchup, the Leafs centre will have to pay attention to every little detail when Bergeron is on the ice. Containing Bergeron, who has 59 points in 64 career games against the Leafs, is among the NHL’s greatest challenges.
Before the Leafs played host to the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, coach Mike Babcock was lauding the play of the third line, Par Lindholm between Andreas Johnsson and Connor Brown. As the Leafs try to extend a season-opening road winning streak to seven games — something that is believed not to have been done by the team since the 1940-41 season — the depth provided by the Leafs’ third line might have to make greater offensive contributions.