The back end of a home-and-home affair. Friday night in Toronto a 3-2 overtime loss. Saturday night back at TD Garden where the Bruins were 5-2-2 and 6-5-4 overall.
More than teetering at the .500 mark 15 games in are two glaring facts. First, the Bruins yet to win two consecutive regulation games.
Second, the five games in November an indication of a pattern – or lack thereof. A 2-1 win over Vegas with the outcome in doubt into the third period. A 3-2 loss to Washington, down 3-1 late in the game. A 5-3 win over Minnesota with a 4-1 lead and the fifth goal an empty-netter. A 4-2 loss to the Rangers, down 3-1 after the first period. Friday night’s 3-2 loss after holding the lead – twice.
One other beneficial fact: Frederik Andersen not in goal for the Leafs. After Friday’s win, he’s 9-0 against Boston. Curtis McElhinney between the Toronto pipes; McElhinney 2-2-0 with a 2.10 GAA in five career games against the Bruins.
Khudobin playing Friday meant Tuukka Rask Saturday. Boston’s backup at 3-0-2; Rask at 3-5-2. Rask 15-5-2 with a 2.07 GAA in 25 career games against the Maple Leafs.
Jake DeBrusk relegated to Level 9 for a refresher on perspective. 2017 Seventh Player runner-up Dominic Moore back to TD as a member of Mike Babcock’s roster.
Saturday’s tilt the last at the Garden for the next four games, three in California, beginning in Anaheim on Wednesday, and a closer against the most improved team in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils.
Oh yeah, another glaring and telling fact: The Bruins were winless (0-2-3) against teams in the Eastern Conference. That’s seven points of a possible 10. Not a good indicator of playoff potential with Thanksgiving less than two weeks hence. We’ll put a hold on that well-known and related fact.
“You want to win against the teams you’re going to be fighting for down the road for playoff position, and that’s our goal, so I’m not going to hide from that,” Bruce Cassidy said postgame after two more key points slipped away.
Here’s what we learned as Boston dropped another to the Leafs, 4-1, just 24 hours removed from the first.
“We can’t chase the game every night,” Cassidy said postgame.
The Bruins did all of that for 60 minutes Saturday night.
Leafs pick up where they left off
After keeping Toronto off the board with a breakaway save on William Nylander eight minutes into the first period, Rask got hung out to dry on a Brandon Carlo pass across the middle of his own zone. Mitch Marner with the easy interception followed by a 15-foot wrist shot past Rask at 8:52 to put Toronto on the board first.
“It was the right idea,” Cassidy said about the Carlo gaffe. “He just missed.”
Carlo then took two for hooking at 14:09 and it took Toronto all of seven seconds for James van Riemsdyk to tip one by Rask and up the lead to 2-0. The goal was his third in 24 hours with two tallies Friday night.
Vatrano tipped a Torey Krug left-point shot past McElhinney at 15:18 to cut the lead in half; Kevan Miller also assisting. It was Krug’s ninth point in his last seven games.
Beleskey attempts déjà vu all over again
Last week, Matt Beleskey’s second-period bout with Minnesota’s Luke Kunin ignited the crowd late in the first period. This time it was Beleskey and Matt Martin late in the second.
A 2-on-1 between Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand shortly after went for naught when Marchand’s backhand deflection was foiled by McElhinney.
5-0-0 vs. 0-5-1
That would be the Leafs season record when leading after two periods vs. the Bruins when trailing.
A heads-up play by Tim Schaller not only kept the puck in the Leafs zone, but also drew a tripping penalty, followed by a second at 3:39 for a 5-on-3 advantage Boston. Cassidy called his timeout.
And the Bruins let a golden chance go by the boards.
“Right now we’re a little off in the PP,” Cassidy said in major understatement. “They’re just a little bit off, the shot selection, or the puck placement for the good shot selection.”
Worse, the Bruins went public skating in their zone and allowed an open Morgan Rielly to whistle a 15-footer past Rask at 6:52 for the two-goal lead. To that point the B’s had outshot the Leafs, 31-19.
“He had a tough break on the third goal,” Cassidy said about Carlo’s misread. “I mean, he’s got to make a split second decision; they get pucks to the net, he needs to box out, it’s a flash screen, and those things happen.”
Another PP opp came with 10 minutes left; another opportunity wasted.
The former long-time San Jose Shark, Patrick Marleau, would put the Bruins away peacefully at 18:13 with an open-net goal.
Heading west at 6-6-4
“If you continue to play hard, things will go your way and that’s the mindset we need to have out west,” Cassidy said, “because we’re playing good teams out there, so we can’t start feeling sorry for ourselves.”
“Guys are working their butts off there and then just not getting the result we want to,” Rask added.
“Game 82 is worth two points,” Krug said, “Game 1 is worth two points, so it doesn’t matter.”
Thanksgiving is approaching. The mindset, the results and the points are starting to really matter.