Tonight’s game is rather insignificant from the Toronto’s perspective. There’s no Stanley Cup to be won this year, and say what you will about fighting for jobs next season but the vast majority of this group either won’t be back at all or will simply inherit roster spots by default. That said, playing the spoiler is always fun, and Toronto will have an opportunity to do just that tonight when they host the Bruins.
This is a reeling Boston squad that’s barely holding on to a playoff spot. Currently holding the third seed in the Atlantic Division with 86 points, the Detroit Red Wings sit only one point behind the B’s with a game in hand. And while the rest of the Atlantic lags far behind, the Metropolitan Division has a number of teams in the wild card mix that could easily force the Bruins out of the postseason entirely. Boston have lost five straight games in regulation and desperately need a win tonight, against what should be an easy opponent, if they have any playoff aspirations.
Not much different going on here. Josh Leivo was returned to the Marlies yesterday and Brad Boyes will return to the lineup from injury, but other than that it’s pretty much status quo. The kids are going to get their opportunities to show they belong in the NHL; fun to watch, but ultimately we’re just passing time at this point.
There’s obvious talent on this team, but the holes are pretty glaring. As has been discussed all season, that Bruins blueline is certainly a weak point. Boston has allowed 18 goals during the span of their five-game losing streak, or 3.6 goals against per game. If they want to win tonight, they’ll need to really lock things down in their own end. No, the Leafs are not an offensive powerhouse, but while their 2.38 goals for per game ranks 27th in the league, their 31.1 shots per game ranks 5th. Considering they’ve scored 20 goals in their past five games, Boston can’t take them lightly.
Jonathan Bernier is back in net tonight for Toronto. Generally speaking, I’m a proponent of the ‘win and you’re in’ philosophy of rotating your goaltenders, but Garret Sparks picked up Thursday’s W despite allowing five goals against. And let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves, Bernier has looked pretty good lately – he’s got an impressive .944 SV% over his past five starts. If it was worth calling anyone your ‘number one’ at this point in the year, Bernier would get the honours.
For Boston, Tuukka Rask gets the nod. I mean, who else would you go with if your playoff hopes are fading? Jonas Gustavsson? Hmmm. Rask has been shaky lately, but he’s the Bruins best hope for a bounceback win tonight.
What To Watch For…
- If you’re catching this pregame early enough, the Penguins and Red Wings are playing at 2:00pm. I’d watch that.
- As for the Leafs game? Oh, man, I don’t know… just focus really hard on William Nylander and try to forget everything else.