Leafs good, but not as good as Bru­ins in 5-1 loss

Bos­ton’s top line too much for much im­proved Toronto

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - MARK ZWOLIN­SKI

TORONTO — John Tavares has as de­fin­i­tive a view on lead­er­ship as there is in the NHL, and it’s part of the rea­son the Maple Leafs have done rea­son­ably well weath­er­ing the loss of fel­low cen­tre Aus­ton Matthews to in­jury.

But even with Tavares in the fold, there’s a nag­ging ques­tion re­main­ing with the Leafs at this early junc­ture of the sea­son and it is this: Is their cur­rent blend of talent, speed and play­ing struc­ture good enough to match up against a team like the Bos­ton Bru­ins, who are the Leafs’ ul­ti­mate mea­sur­ing stick team at the mo­ment?

Af­ter the Leafs started the game well they were ul­ti­mately dis­man­tled Satur­day night by the Bru­ins and their sparkling top line.

So the an­swer to that ques­tion, at least right now, is no.

Even with Matthews in the lineup, and the fact the Leafs own as good a cen­tre corps as there is with Tavares, Matthews and Nazem Kadri, the prospect of the

Leafs han­dling the Bru­ins now, or in a play­off se­ries, just doesn’t feel strong.

That’s where the true value of what Tavares brings — in terms of his lead­er­ship, ex­pe­ri­ence, and tal­ents — is ex­pected to make a dif­fer­ence.

But Tavares him­self knows the bat­tle for the Leafs to re­main con­sis­tent, and for him­self to set the ex­am­ple he wants to, will be a daily chal­lenge.

So far, Tavares has lived up to the chal­lenge. The Leafs, mi­nus Wil­liam Ny­lan­der (con­tract im­passe), and miss­ing Matthews for six of their 17 games so far, rank third over­all in the NHL.

They have com­piled a 4-2-0 record with Matthews side­lined (shoul­der in­jury) — with Tavares scor­ing his team lead­ing 10th goal Satur­day, and 19th point (third on the team).

The Leafs, though, in what was a mea­sur­ing stick game against Bos­ton Satur­day, didn’t mea­sure up. In their first visit to Bos­ton since their Game 7 de­feat in the first round of the play­offs last spring, Toronto con­tained the big line of Pa­trice Berg­eron, be­tween Brad Marc­hand and David Pas­tr­nak — for one pe­riod.

That line blew them away af­ter that, rack­ing up nine points, in­clud­ing a Pas­tr­nak hat trick for a 5-1 past­ing.

The Leafs, in their post game dress­ing room, spoke about the Bru­ins’ big line, and sounded part en­vi­ous, and partly like they were cit­ing de­tails they can’t let hap­pen again.

“They do so many things right,” Tavares’ line­mate Mitch Marner said.

“They work hard ev­ery sin­gle night. They know where each other is ev­ery sin­gle night. They’ve been to­gether for four or five years now, so their chem­istry is very high. The speed they have on that line is very good, also. Berg­eron is a guy that can win draws any­where. He’s very un­der­rated, I think. Peo­ple don’t give him enough credit for how good he is.

“The other two re­ally help him out as well as a unit. I think all three of them have a lot of abil­i­ties that make each other work re­ally good to­gether; and when you come to play against them, it’s never an easy game. You’ve got to make sure you’re ready.”

Marner’s men­tion of how un­der­rated Berg­eron is, and the fact he doesn’t get enough credit, con­trasts the Leafs, who play in hockey’s big­gest and most hyped mar­ket. The Leafs re­ceive more at­ten­tion — and more praise — than most world lead­ers, on a daily aver­age of head­lines and sto­ries in the me­dia.

The play­ers, as part of their pre-sea­son meet­ings, ad­dressed that fact, and placed a level-headed per­spec­tive on it (live with it, em­brace it even, but don’t let it take the team off its de­ter­mi­na­tion to work hard and play proper struc­ture).

Tavares’ value will likely start ex­pand­ing, now that the Leafs have played 17 games, and have ab­sorbed a les­son in com­pete level from the Bru­ins.

For Tavares, there’s no ques­tion the team must work harder — more con­sis­tently — if it is to han­dle teams like Bos­ton, and ce­ment it­self as a true, elite team in the NHL.

“They’re ob­vi­ously very cre­ative, very smart hockey play­ers,” Tavares said.

“Op­por­tunis­tic. Pa­trice Berg­eron is one of the most com­plete play­ers in the game and doesn’t give you much room the other way. They don’t give you a whole lot of­fen­sively as well.”

NOTES: The Leafs will call up a for­ward from the Mar­lies on Mon­day, prior to their Tues­day night game in Los An­ge­les, and ex­pec­ta­tions are that it will be Trevor Moore. Moore’s home­town is Thou­sand Oaks, Ca. just out­side of Los An­ge­les, and the site of where a gun­man opened fire in a bar last week, killing 12 peo­ple.

WINSLOW TOWN­SON THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Toronto’s Kasperi Ka­pa­nen, left, checks Bos­ton’s John Moore into the boards in the Bru­ins’ 5-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Satur­day night.

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