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Leafs vs. Bruins Recap: The Redemption of James van Riemsdyk

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Toronto wins 3-2 in OT as JVR pots two goals.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The big, bad Boston Bruins came to town tonight for the Hockey Hall of Fame game. The pregame ceremonies also featured a tribute to Canada’s veterans, making Rememberance Day. And then there was a hockey game.

The Bruins were missing several significant players, including Davids Krecji and Backes. The Leafs were missing their best player, Auston Matthews. This one was a bit slow for a lot of it, but trust me, it did not end slowly.

First Period

Awkward moment early on as Frederik Andersen plays the puck to Riley Nash, but Nash doesn’t do anything with it. A whistle later, the Bruins get a two-on-one where Sean Kuraly whips a puck off Freddie’s left pad. Good work by Patrick Marleau to prevent that rebound from being a scoring chance.

Chara and Rielly go barreling into the net. At the other end, Komarov whirls in the corner to throw a pass into the slot where Nazem Kadri nearly scores, but Anton Khudobin has the save.

Zdeno Chara is still a physical monster at age 40, jsyk. He manhandles Zach Hyman in the corner like he’s a doll. On the way back up the ice Bruins forward Anders Bjork goes army of me down the right wing, firing a shot on Freddie.

Subsequent to that, Chara fires a shot out in his own zone, and the Leafs go to the powerplay.

Marner whirls in the early going, but his unit suffers a couple of clears. The Nylander unit does better, with a couple of good chances and good holds from Leivo. But no goals; Bruins get the kill.

Torey Krug has a blast from the point, and he shows it off for one of those echoing slapshots, but Freddie has the save. This hasn’t been the most eventful period thus far.

Couple of good Leaf chances—Zaitsev goes cross-crease and Leivo misses it; then Komarov, Kadri and Nylander run a lovely little play but Nylander can’t finish. The Leafs have picked it up here, looking aggressive on the forecheck. Good to see.

The Bruins, however, get a great flurry in the final minute; Tim Schaller probably has the best shot from the high slot, but Boston has the Leafs running around in their own zone. Mercifully, it doesn’t lead to anything, and the first ends 0-0.

This was a pretty even period, without a lot of offensive flourish—perhaps predictably, given all the missing forward talent from the two lineups. Toronto had a nice stretch about three-quarters of the way through before that late Boston push. The Komarov-Kadri-Nylander grouping is thus far playing standup against the Bruins line of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak; if they can continue to do that, I like our chances.

Second Period

Nikita Zaitsev shows off his skating with a nice one-man rush end-to-end.

The Bozak line has a solid o-zone shift. The Leafs now, oddly enough, look like a generally solid team without a lot of finishing talent, which is the exact opposite of what we’ve come to expect. Strange times.

Brandon Carlo takes a hooking penalty trying to sabotage Leo Komarov in front of the net, disrupting a good Leaf chances. Toronto back to the PP.

JVR rips a nice little shot, but Khudobin swallows it up. Brad Marchand and Chara get a near two-on-one that’s broken up by an excellent backcheck from Tyler Bozak (!), who then turns the Leafs back to the attack, leading to a good chance. Great effort from Bozie. The Nylander unit buzzes a bit, but no goals, once again.

Bergeron throws to his winger David Pastnrak, and Freddie Andersen has to make easily his best save so far on a burst-of-speed rush from Pasta Neck. That top line is really something.

A high tip off a point shot from Bozak is another decent chance—Bozak looks great tonight, and the line has had some decent chances in a generally grinding game. It’s hard to describe the flow of this game since there are relatively few good chances either way.

Danton Henein has a couple of shots on consecutive shifts, one of which trickles through Freddie and wide. Thereafter, Brandon Carlo high-sticks Nazem Kadri, leading to a third straight PP for the Leafs. Kadri also got a stick up on Carlo earlier that was uncalled, and I have an uneasy feeling this will lead to a makeup call soon.

Josh Leivo botches a powerplay entry and gives the puck away, and two of the most dangerous shorthanded players on earth, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, run back the other way. Rielly does some good work limiting Marchand as he rushes in, but that was scary. Suddenly there are multiple chances in a row—a point-blank shot on the PP for Kadri that Khudobin handles, a shot for Tim Schaller back the other way after the powerplay ends, and then a rush for Dominic Moore. Figures, these teams play a boring game and then pile four chances in a row so quick I can’t get full notes on them.

Unfortunately, the Bruins finally strike, and it’s as you’d expect. Brad Marchand throws to Patrice Bergeron near the top of the circle, and Bergeron rifles a slapshot top corner. 1-0 Boston.

Jake Gardiner clears the puck over the glass and takes a delay of game penalty, so the Bruins go to their first PP. Bergeron and co. scare the daylights out of me, but the Leafs manage to get the kill.

Toronto buzzes around for a dangerous o-zone shift; Riley Nash takes another Boston penalty, so the Leafs go to the PP yet again. And finally, they do something with it. Morgan Rielly fires a point shot, and both Nazem Kadri and JVR bounce on the rebound; their sticks are actually pressed together as the puck is knocked in, so they both appear to have scored the goal, but it’s eventually awarded to JVR. Big goal. 1-1, and that’s how the second ends.

This was another extremely even period; it had a bit more action than the first, obviously, both in goals and chances, but it still wasn’t the most exciting. The Leafs are playing remarkably competent defence by their standards, but on the other hand, Boston currently has only one scoring line and that line did in fact score. The fourth line and the third pairing are not having the greatest possession ride, especially Andreas Borgman. Shot attempts on the whole favour Boston by a hair. This is a winnable game. Come on guys.

Third Period

Leafs show good speed early; strong zone shift from the Bozak line, while Hyman and Marleau each zip into the zone and Marleau puts a good shot on Khudobin.

The Bergeron line continues to impress, setting up a dangerous flurry that includes a cannon from Zdeno Chara that just misses.

The Leafs have a bizarre o-zone shift where Marner keeps appearing to be setting up dangerous opportunities and then falling over.

Marner wisely gets his blades changed on his skates after this shift.

Anton Khudobin brutally misplays a puck and William Nylander comes agonizingly clsoe to taking advantage with a pass out to the high slot, but Khudobin rushes back in the net in time to make a save.

James van Riemsdyk takes a hooking penalty , with the stick getting up a little too high for the refs’ liking. It looked pretty soft to me, but the Leafs have had more powerplays than Boston, which may have played into it.

Toronto manages an excellent kill, not allowing a shot and barely any zone time until the very end; the Bruins do get a chance after the powerplay ends, with Torey Krug shooting for Matt Beleskey to make a tip.

Shortly after, Zdeno Chara takes an interference call and the Leafs get back on offence. The Leafs have their moments, and Jake Gardiner makes an absolutely spectacular hold at the line, but they don’t score. Right after, the Bruins rush up on a two-on-one; Josh Leivo backchecks admirably to break it up but winds up taking a hooking penalty in the process, so now it’s a Boston PP again.

Andersen makes a big PK clear, a skill he also showed off against Minnesota. Toronto almost gets through, but in the very last second, the Bruins work a puck out from behind the net. Anders Bjork puts a shot on and David Pastrnak jumps on the rebound for 2-1 Boston.

Jake Gardiner takes a very unfortunately timed interference penalty. The standard for interference does not seem consistent to me. This is all I will say.

The Leafs get the kill, but doing so eats nearly half their remaining time to tie the game. But...

With the goalie pulled, JVR heroically beats out an icing and starts a fantastic Leaf 6-on-5 sequence where they run the Bruins ragged for nearly a full minute, highlighted by two great holds by Jake Gardiner. Mitch Marner puts a pass to JVR in front of the net, and JVR puts it in for his second of the night. 2-2, with a minute left!

Nothing further, and we’re going to OT.

Overtime

The Bergeron-Marchand duo has a dangerous opening shift in OT, running the Leafs around and ending with a key Freddie save.

And then, a crazy final sequence:

Patrick Marleau nearly makes a deadly giveaway. Mitch Marner steals the puck back and rushes up-ice. Marner goes to Jake Gardiner, and Gardiner makes a slap pass back to Marleau in front of the net, who tips the winner home. 3-2 Leafs, incredibly, is your final.

Thoughts

  • FUCK YEAHHHHHHHHH
  • Ahem. Sorry guys, that turnaround at the end there was huge. Anyway. This was an interesting game, with not all that much offence for long stretches of it, and it was played remarkably evenly. 5v5 CF for the night (unadjusted) was exactly even at 43 attempts apiece. Scoring chances, as per NST, were even, though Boston’s were more dangerous. Pretty evenly played.
  • This was a very big night for the Bozak line, who have been much maligned this year. They were dangerous offensively, they were top of the team in shot attempts, JVR had two goals, Marner had two assists, and Tyler Bozak made multiple really impressive plays. Soft competition, maybe, but nonetheless, really heartening to see.
  • This was also a very strong night for Gardiner, iffy interference penalty aside. He was his usual dominant self in shot attempts and he had multiple excellent efforts to hold the offensive zone, including two on the final sequence in the third with the tying goal. Without him, the Leafs lose.
  • The Kadri line did pretty decently against the Bergeron line, going about punch-for-punch against them through two periods; the one Bergeron goal in the second wasn’t really on a defensive miscue or anything. William Nylander was relatively quiet, though, and Mike Babcock decided to move him off Kadri’s line in favour of Connor Brown in the third. Not sure that was such a great idea; the line got outshot in short minutes after that.
  • If we had lost this game, it would loom larger that once again Mike Babcock leaned extremely hard on two penalty-killing defencemen: Ron Hainsey (who played a staggering 7:48 shorthanded) and Nikita Zaitsev (5:13). They did an admirable job, but it’s worth noting that the David Pastrnak goal involved the two of them losing a battle below the net at the very end of a penalty kill they had played pretty much all of. I get that Babcock trusts them much more on the PK, with some reason, but I don’t know how sustainable this is.
  • The fourth line and the third pairing did not do all that well; I don’t think this game will go on the Andreas Borgman highlight reel, as he got shelled in shot attempts again (but without glaring issues like he had in Minnesota—not a terrible game, just not great.) Josh Leivo gave up a SH break and then took a penalty we got scored on, which is not going to do him any favours in his ongoing efforts to keep a lineup spot.
  • By and large, though, I think the Leafs played this one pretty well, and at least prior to the third, they weren’t allowing that many great chances against (by their standards.) Yes, they were playing a team that had lost a chunk of its secondary scoring, but Boston is a capable opponent and the Leafs in turn lost a lot of their primary scoring. I didn’t feel that great about the win over Minnesota; this one I think was well-earned.
  • That Bruins top line is terrifying. They may not have enough else to contend, but I don’t believe any other team puts a consistently better line on the ice, and very few teams could even if they stacked their three best forwards.
  • Aside: Martin Marincin scored a goal for the Marlies tonight and just look at it:

That’s Martin Marincin doing that!

  • The Leafs have an immediate rematch in Boston tomorrow. It’s not going to be easy, but this was a big win.