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  • Takeaways: Bruins honor 2011 champs with statement sweep of Leafs

    Tim Rosenthal March 8, 2024

    The current core of Bruins doesn’t resemble many similarities from the colorful cast of champs from 2011. But in the final hours leading up to the trade deadline — and the uncertainty that comes with it — the Bruins got another upper hand on a familiar foe in the franchise’s return to glory.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs, playing in their second game of a back-to-back, waited in the locker room as the members of Boston’s 2011 team paraded onto the ice. After their final centennial pregame celebration, the Bruins turned their attention to making one last statement against the Leafs before Friday’s 3 p.m. deadline and a potential first-round preview.

    If Thursday provided any indication, the Bruins could very well interrupt Toronto’s plans for a celebration route from Maple Leaf Square to Yonge Street.

    Boston’s power play, which slowly started providing signs of turning a corner, scored twice behind a David Pastrnak first-period one-timer and a Morgan Geekie second-period snipe.

    The Bruins received more timely secondary scoring on a Trent Frederic breakaway and a Brandon Carlo slap shot through traffic during the middle frame. They encountered a blip after Mitch Marner notched his own breakaway marker off a Brad Marchand turnover to cut the Boston lead to 2-1.

    The Leafs didn’t just face a disadvantage on the scoreboard. Simply put, the Bruins overwhelmed Toronto (again) every time the Original Six rivals attempted a physical or emotional pushback.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins complete the regular-season sweep of the Leafs following Thursday’s 4-1 victory.

    Jeremy Swayman has the upper hand for the Game 1 start.

    After Friday, the Bruins will have confirmation on Linus Ullmark’s organizational status for the rest of the season. Assuming Ullmark remains in black and gold, the coaching staff will internally discuss the next steps for the rotation through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.

    Barring injury or a significant drop off in production, Swayman remains on track for the Game 1 start come mid-April.

    The Alaskan-born netminder reverted to his pre-All-Star form over his last appearances against Toronto. For the second straight appearance, he only allowed one Toronto goal past him.

    Swayman remained engaged with every shot he faced. He was also eager to drop the mitts during heated tensions. At one point, he skated to center ice, hoping Joseph Woll would accept an invitation during the third period.

    The former Boston College netminder didn’t budge. But Swayman didn’t backtrack after his fellow goaltending peer declined his challenge after capping off his 28-save outing with 10 third-period stops.

    “To see my guys go in, it’s a team effort, so we all go in,” Swayman said about a potential exchange with Woll. “He’s my buddy. I respect the hell out of him and his game. So, it was another opportunity, but nothing happened.”

    Woll and Swayman may see each other again another month. But the fourth-year netminder hopes the other half of Boston’s dynamic duo accompanies him.

    Swayman hopes his brotherhood bond with Ullmark continues.

    Swayman and Ullmark shared their trademark postgame embrace after Boston’s latest win. But he couldn’t help but wonder if that was the last hug the two would share in a Bruins uniform.

    Moving Ullmark or Jake DeBrusk would give Sweeney financial flexibility to land potential defensive and forward upgrades. Swayman, who endured his encounter with the business side of hockey during arbitration last summer, took that into account as he shared his thoughts on the situation.

    “That guy is my brother for life, and he’s a huge reason why we’ve had success every year,” Swayman said of Ullmark. “There’s not going to be any surprises, hopefully. I love that guy to death, and whatever happens, happens. It’s business. I know it just as well, but whatever happens, happens. But, I mean, I don’t even want to think about that.”

    Boston’s physical and defensive checking game is starting to come around.

    The Leafs may have landed 29 shots on net to Boston’s 26. And while they generated some decent looks on Swayman, they struggled to sustain an attacking zone presence amid the latter half of a back-to-back.

    As their skating game evaded them, the Leafs tried to catch the Bruins off-guard physically.

    Indeed, Boston’s blue-collar presence isn’t near the stratosphere as the 2011 version. But with a who’s who of former champions and a rabid fanbase behind them, the 2023-24 Bruins responded accordingly.

    For every Max Domi exchange with Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins came to one another’s aid. For every Jake McCabe respective cross-check and slash to Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle, the Bruins responded with a timely power-play goal.

    In turn, the Bruins delivered an appropriate checking and defensive response in a potential playoff preview.

    From their worst 60-minute outing of the season a week ago on Long Island, the Bruins embarked on a mini-turnaround, holding the potent Leafs and Oilers attack in check to the tune of three regulation goals. Only another collapse in the final minutes of regulation Tuesday prevented the Bruins from carrying a three-game win streak into the weekend.

    “We got it handed to us on the Island. We really tried to focus and be better in certain areas, and we have,” Marchand said. “We had a great week so far, especially considering the travel before that and some of the adversity we faced. Again, it’s about the next one, and we have to be tight defensively and check hard. That’s how we’ve always had success. We’ve been a checking team that can score, not a scoring team that can check.

    Marchand encountered that tight-checking philosophy firsthand with the help during a championship run. Now, he can relay that experience to his squad as his former teammates watch on.

    The Bruins welcome the “return to a championship” era with open arms.

    Thursday’s pregame festivities began with a Duck Boat arrival at the Zamboni entrance of TD Garden. One by one, Tim Thomas, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Claude Julien, Shawn Thornton, and Patrice Bergeron took to the ice for one more hero’s welcome.

    Zdeno Chara was the last former Bruin introduced to the crowd. The legendary 6-foot-9 blue-liner didn’t come empty-handed, carrying the coveted 34.5-pound trophy with him to hoist over his head one more time before joining the rest of the group for a group photo.

    Marchand, the lone holdover from that 2011 squad, didn’t know about any pregame plans. But that’s not an unusual development.

    “I was pretty upset that I didn’t get the invite, but that’s typical for when I was on that team,” Marchand joked.


    In jest, Marchand admitted that he would’ve lobbied to join Bergeron, Chara and company for a pregame Duck Boat ride. But he had plenty of time to reunite with his Cup-winning peers ahead of Thursday’s puck drop.

    The 2011 bunch caught up with Marchand and the current crop of Bruins before embarking on their pregame itinerary. Julien read the starting lineup inside the home dressing room. The aura and presence from the last squad of champs resonated with this year’s transitional B’s hoping to establish more building blocks ahead of the postseason.

    “It was great to see so many of those guys around and happy to be back in Boston,” head coach Montgomery said. “You can tell that when you win a Stanley Cup that there’s a special bond. It’s nice for our players to see it, and it’s nice for our players that are currently here. They all watched these guys win the Cup if they weren’t playing with them.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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