Explosive Bruins expect better from Maple Leafs
BOSTON — Attention Canada Customs, there’s flammable material coming through Pearson.
The Boston Bruins are taking their first-line fireworks show on the road, but coach Bruce Cassidy is concerned more about defence at the Air Canada Centre, without last line change and expecting the young Leafs and the vocal crowd to change the narrative of this one-sided series.
“They’re a great home team,” Cassidy said of the 29-win Leafs, two of those one-goal results versus his team. “Their younger players tend to get more excited and re-energized there. I would suspect we’ll put these two games behind us, take the good from it and focus on what we have to do. Especially our start. I expect they’ll be buzzing there. We’ll see what we can do to tilt the game our way.”
Really, there is little cause to adjust the game plan for Boston. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak will find the Leafs tougher to crack at home, but say they don’t get 20 points in Games 3 and 4. Secondary scoring, team defence and keeping the Toronto gunners to minimal damage should suffice.
Though Auston Mathews has yet to be on the winning side of any of the three games in which he’s faced Boston this season, the Bruins still respect him and dynamic linemate William Nylander.
“A lot of that is keeping them in their defensive zone and getting pucks behind them,” said winger David Backes. “I thought Matthews in the second half of (Game 2) kind of found his stride and had a few rushes where he was at least getting some penetration.
“He’s a top-tier player in this league that we need to neutralize. You need to find ways to limit his time and space because he’s that good. If he’s playing defence and doesn’t have the puck, he’s that good. I’m guessing by the results in the first two games they’re not going to play him head-to-head against Bergy. But weirder things have happened.”
Cassidy reminded the media after Game 2 that Boston had 12 shooters in double figures this season.
“To score five and seven in the playoffs, it’s not going to happen every night. We can’t go into Toronto thinking that. But one to 12 (forwards), our guys think they can pitch in.
“We are a determined group and we have courage to go to the dirty areas. You need courage. You get people there and you need to get pucks to arrive there and it becomes a mindset.
“You can have players go there all day, but if the pucks don’t arrive you get frustrated. We believe that is an area we want to force them to defend if they are willing to hang in there and battle us there.”
In other aspects, Boston’s defence is playing much more smart than the mistake-prone Leafs, while goalie Tuukka Rask is not under the assault that Frederik Andersen has endured.
“It’s a great start,” Rask said of taking the first two at TD Garden. “The way we wanted it, the way people in Boston wanted it. Now we got to go on the road and obviously it’s going to be a lot tougher in their home building, trying to grind some wins out of there.”