By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob
There’s no question that the Boston Bruins are struggling. They are currently on a three-game skid, losing to three different Atlantic Division foes in the past week. On Saturday night they will host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs are having a tremendous year and are in second place across the entire league. They are 5-0-1 in their last six contests, propelling themselves to a record of 20-8-1 overall. It will be a big challenge for Boston – a challenge they might not exactly be up for.
David Pastrnak is just about the only Bruin who hasn’t succumb to sub-par play since Patrice Bergeron fell out of the lineup due to an injury. The team’s top center has missed nine games to date, a period in which Boston has gone 4-4-1. However, during that time Pastrnak has been able to continue producing, coming up with three goals and four assists despite Bergeron’s absence. The Bruins really need someone else to step up, however. Bergeron could be out through the holidays – if not longer – and Pastrnak can’t net Boston wins on his own.
Auston Matthews is one of the biggest names in the NHL today and for good reason. Toronto had lost one of their star centers for a number of games this season. The Maple Leafs went 9-5-0 during his absence. Though that is still a great record, they have been even better with him, going 11-3-1. In the four games Matthews has appeared in since his return, the center has put together a four-game point streak featuring five goals and three assists.
The Leafs’ starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen, is on a four-game winning streak. He made 38 saves in each of those four victories. He gave up 11 goals in the process, but Toronto’s offense did enough to put his team over the top. Andersen will be getting the start on Saturday, and it would be surprising if he didn’t have a good outing against the Bruins who have evidently struggled to get pucks to the back of the net.
Just about everyone besides Pastrnak hasn’t been up to snuff for Boston. Whether it’s a lack of execution or physicality, poor defense or just being a step behind the opponent, the Bruins are not meeting expectations by any means. Secondary scoring has been a problem all season and it has become more prevalent without Bergeron anchoring the top line.
Even Brad Marchand hasn’t been himself without his highly-skilled centerman. Many are calling for some trades – especially if Bergeron is to be out for an even longer period time than originally expected. That may be a route Boston needs to go if the team they are icing right now can’t come together and snag some victories.
William Nylander made waves this season as he and his team were at odds over contract negotiations. With just minutes to spare before the Dec. 1 deadline, the restricted free agent signed with the Leafs and has returned to action. Nylander hasn’t been struggling – he has only played one game this season – but it is worth noting that the young winger likely isn’t in his best form after missing two full months of the season. It will likely take Nylander a little while to get going, but a contest against a struggling Boston team could be just what he needs to jump-start his season.
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Outlook
It’s like beating a dead horse at this point, but the Bruins have quite simply been bad this past week. Yes, injuries play a role in that. However, on paper, they have the skill to overcome the losses of Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller – at least in the short-term. They will be missing Jake DeBrusk as well, which is certainly not a good sign for the Bruins.
The Maple Leafs are red hot entering Saturday’s matchup. It could be a slaughter if the Bruins don’t find their A-game by the drop of the puck. Jaroslav Halak will be getting the start, and he will likely be tested early and often.
In their playoff series in April, the Matthews line was halted by both Bergeron’s unit and Chara’s defensive pair. With the Bruins missing both of those players, along with the Maple Leafs’ addition of John Tavares over the offseason, this is going to be a big challenge.