Following a day and a half of well-deserved negative attention on the front office, the Bruins’ focus returned to the ice Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Bruins couldn’t sustain their offensive prowess against a Maple Leafs squad with much more to prove only a dozen games into the season. Despite two late power-play opportunities, Boston couldn’t generate enough quality scoring chances in search of a late equalizer.
“They checked well tonight. I mean, they’re a good hockey team,” forward Taylor Hall said to reporters following the loss. “Not a lot of time and space against a team that people think are easy to play against. It was tough tonight.”
Auston Matthews opened the scoring for the Leafs at 7:19 of the first period. Matthews pulled the puck from below the goal line and found a small gap between Linus Ullmark and the strong-side post.
Save for the Matthews tally, Ullmark put forth another solid outing, stopping 26 of 28 Toronto shots.
The two sides traded goals in the second period, starting with a penalty shot equalizer from Brad Marchand for his fourth goal of the season and his 800th career point at 4:59.
The Leafs reclaimed their one-goal lead after Matthews banged home a wide-open chance on the power play for his second goal of the night.
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins dropped their second game of the season.
Boston’s leadership core speaks on the Mitchell Miller signing
The Bruins pride themselves on their locker room culture full of high-character individuals and a strong locker room culture. On the heels of the controversial Miller signing, a handful of Boston’s leaders voiced their opinion on the matter following their pregame skate in Toronto.
“I had my concerns, I shared my opinion. In a way I think I was not necessarily agreeing with it,” captain Patrice Bergeron said to the media. “To be honest with you, I think the culture that we build here goes against that type of behavior. I think we’re a team that’s built something about character and character people. In this locker room, we’re all about inclusion, diversity, and respect. Those are key words and core values that we have.”
Even if those values weren’t translated into the actions of the Bruins’ front office, Marchand and Nick Foligno echoed Bergeron’s sentiment during their pregame media availabilities.
“It’s not something that anyone in this room stands for,” Foligno said. “The culture that we’ve built and these guys have built before I got here is one of inclusion and I think it goes against that.”
The public comments from Boston’s leadership core as well as Commissioner Gary Bettman calling Miller’s NHL eligibility into question have left the situation in flux.
Boston’s offense was shut down for the first time this season
Jim Montgomery’s new offensively-focused system had turned the Bruins into the highest-producing offensive club through 11 games. A matchup against the high-flying Maple Leafs would showcase the fastest back-and-forth hockey between the two Original Six squads, right?
The Leafs effectively shut down the Bruins through the neutral zone and limited their offensive zone opportunities, holding them to only 21 shots on goal – their lowest output of the season.
“I think Toronto checked better than we did tonight,” Montgomery said. “It was hard for us to generate a lot of offense and you’ve got to tip your hat to them.”
As a team that generates offense with speed from their backend, the Bruins struggled to find the recent drive that had propelled them to score 20 goals in their previous 20 games.
“It was breakouts,” Montgomery said. “We weren’t very clean and then also just our puck decisions through the neutral zone, making sure that we were able to establish a forecheck which we weren’t able to.”
Marchand records 800th career point
Boston’s one goal tonight came in the way of a second-period penalty shot from Marchand.
Already on the man advantage, the veteran winger broke away from Toronto defenseman T.J. Brodie but was hauled down before he could get a shot off. Marchand showed patience, got Ilya Samsonov to bite, and went upstairs on the backhand to tie the game.
“I was actually going to shoot it when I went in,” Marchand said of the sequence. “It looked like there was room on the glove side so I was actually going to shoot it. I just kind of noticed he was a little bit further out of the net and I had pretty good speed, so I just kind of held it and it went in.”
Marchand’s fourth goal of the year was not just any other tally. The 34-year-old became the sixth Bruin in franchise history to record 800 career points.
Marchand’s latest accolade seemed far-fetched some time ago. Given the second half of his career, however, his 800th point shouldn’t come as a surprise.
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