Preview: Game #25 Leafs @ Bruins – The Punk Test

That video is from the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won against the Boston Bruins. That was back on March 31st… 2011 which amounts to a seven-game losing streak against the Northeast Division rivals. They’ve been out-scored 37-10 and shutout three times. In that span of time, Boston has been the best team in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins, it can be argued, are the franchise the Leafs are trying to model themselves off of. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Boston Bruins are. In traditionalist hockey quarters, they’re a team that’s thrived on thuggery and toughness. When you pay closer attention to how they’ve built their team, you find that each player addition comes as the way of a methodical decision-making process.

Not to say the Bruins aren’t tough. Steve wrote a classic post called “The Punk Test” where he described the way the Bruins like to set the tone against each opponent:

Milan Lucic steamrolled Ryan Miller, and while Miller has struggled of late, he is still considered not only Buffalo’s starting goaltender, but one of the best goalies in the world. The Buffalo Sabres response: nothing. Well, not quite nothing. They said stuff.

It almost looks like Lucic is wearing Miller’s mask like a parrot.

“I just stuck around because I just want to say what a piece of s*** I think Lucic is,” a severely pissed off Ryan Miller told the media after the game. “Fifty pounds on me, and he runs me like that. It’s unbelievable. Everyone in this city sees him as a big, tough, solid player. I respected him for how hard he played. That was gutless. Gutless, piece of s***.”

Whether or not what Lucic did was an act worthy of a suspension is another story. The key factor here, at least in regards to the punk test, is that the Sabres did nothing. The Boston Bruins got away with not just bullying and running over their goalie, but knocking him out of the lineup for an undetermined amount of time.

It’s a stylistic matchup people expect, but really, the secret behind the Bruins is that they can get away with that sort of stuff because they have a formidable hockey team. Patrice Bergeron is one of the top two-way players in the game. David Krejci is an excellent secondary centreman and would be a number one centre on most teams. Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin complement a skill game.

I read a great post at Pension Plan the other day written by 1967ers titled ‘On Fighting’ where he really hit a nail on the head with this line:

I can imagine the scenario in which having fighters in your lineup would work exactly as the supporters say it should. The problem I have is that I don’t see much of anyone out there capable of playing the role as envisioned.

Milan Lucic is that sort of player. You know he’s crazy enough that if pucks aren’t going in the net, he’s going to take it out on somebody. I think Lucic is a better player when he sticks to scoring goals, but the volatility that’s made him one of Boston’s top penalty minutes men and fighters over the last four or five seasons has the effect of making a hockey team stock itself up with fighters every time they go in to play him.

And just look at the effect: Toronto added Frazer McLaren. Buffalo added John Scott and Steve Ott. Montreal brought in Brandon Prust. The Bruins Stanley Cup win in 2011 set back fourth lines about a generation.

Broadcast Info:


Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST

By the numbers:

  Boston Toronto
Fenwick Close 55.81% (2nd) 44.79% (27th)
5v5 GF/60 2.7 2.8
5v5 GA/60 2.3 2.3
5v5 GF/GA Ratio 1.14 (11th) 1.16 (9th)
Team Shooting % 8.20% 10.20%
Team Save % 0.915 0.930
Team PDO 0.997 1.032

Special Teams:

  Boston Toronto
PP Success 15.9% (21st) 17.6% (14th)
5v4 GF/60 5.9 (14th) 5.5 (17th)
5v4 SF/60 49.1 (12th) 48.4 (13th)
PK Success 91.6% (1st) 82.9% (13th)
4v5 GA/60 2.7 (1st) 5.7 (13th)
4v5 SA/60 36.8 (1st) 44.4 (9th)

Numbers via Behind the Net’s Team and Fenwick pages and


Boston’s goaltending has been pretty sub-par this season as Tuukka Rask is struggling to replace Tim Thomas’ historically-good stretch over his time with the Bruins. Rask is a capable goaltender and he’s certainly better than what his .920 even strength save percentage shows.

That said, the Leafs will get to face Anton Khudobin and his Gustavsson-esque .896 EV SV% tonight. Goaltending has been the reason why the Bruins haven’t converted their puck-possession into wins thus far, so the Leafs probably have a chance against the lesser of the two keepers.

One place Boston has really thrived is on the penalty kill. They’re first in the NHL in all penalty kill categories which are effectiveness rate, goals against per 60 minutes and shots against per 60 minutes. They’re effectively limiting chances against their goaltenders and, having watched their last game against the Capitals where the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead, I was impressed by how quickly the Bruins turned entries around.

Chris Bourque was waived today by the Bruins. Not sure who comes in for the Bruins, but here was their lineup last game:

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Tyler Seguin
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton
Jay Pandolfo – Chris Kelly – Rich Peverley
Shawn Thornton – Gregory Campbell – Daniel Paille

Zdeno Chara – Johnny Boychuk
Dougie Hamilton – Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference – Adam McQuaid

Anton Khudobin
Tuukka Rask

UPDATE: (h/t to Steph – Jay Pandolfo is going in for the Bruins tonight)

The defence is interesting since Chara is a big minutes man and sees a couple of different partners over the course of the game. There’s nothing too notable about the usage of the forwards: having three good lines means that they can shelter their fourth line and not worry about taking away ice from anybody else. Chara and Boychuk will see the tough forward match ups, and generally Claude Julien tries to get Dougie Hamilton against inferior opposition. It will be interesting to see if Hamilton matches up at all tonight against Nazem Kadri.

The third line in Boston has been taking some heat for limited scoring. Last season, Chris Kelly had 20 goals and was a +33. Rich Peverley had 11 goals and was a +20. This season, Kelly has one goal and is a minus-7 while Peverley has three and a minus-8.

This is part of the reason why plus/minus irks me as a stat, because it’s not at all predictive of the future. Kelly and Peverley led the NHL in PDO last season with a 1.056, while this year the two are down to .961 and .924 respectively. They’re doing their job against tough opposition but pucks just aren’t settling themselves for them. That’ll happen, and the PDO (and their plus/minus) will come around.

Leafs lines:

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Nik Kulemin – Mikhail Grabovski – Jay McClement
Frazer McLaren – David Steckel – Colton Orr

Dion Phaneuf – Korbinian Holzer
Carl Gunnarsson – Mike Kostka
Cody Franson – Mark Fraser

James Reimer
Ben Scrivens

Leafs did not skate this morning, so no clue as to whether Matt Frattin draws back into the lineup or if Ben Scrivens gets the start in the back-to-back.

Lines Info via Left Wing Lock

  • MaxPower417

    Ive been a leaf fan 48yrs. This is first comment posted anywhere ever.
    Like the look of the leafs this year.But….

    Why is Dion beginning to remind me of Aki Berg? His play has been just awful. Watched coming up and playing for years. What the hell happened? Did he lose his heart? If a captain is supposed to lead by example then we need a new captain.