By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
Tonight, it ends. The first-round matchup between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs see yet another Game 7. Both teams have had strong games, weak games, and everything in between. For one team, they move on to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round Two, the other heads home for the offseason.
Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Home: Boston Bruins (3-3)
Away: Toronto Maple Leafs (3-3)
Last Game Result: Bruins won 4-2
Bruins Gameday Lineup:
Everything remains the same for the Bruins after Sunday’s Game 6 victory in Toronto. Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen are the starting goaltenders for Boston and Toronto.
Right out of the gate, the Bruins attacked the Leafs defence with some quick shots and a close wraparound shot by David Pastrnak. Frederik Andersen seemed a tad bit slow on the wraparound but makes the save nonetheless. Boston looking not too bad to start off this Game 7. Not too long after, Tuukka Rask makes a large save for himself on Auston Matthews right in the slot.
Later in the early stages to the period, the Bruins with some solid shots on goal or some that just miss by a hair. Torey Krug lightens up the crowd even more than they already are with a huge hit on Trevor Moore that knocks his helmet off. After a solid Game 6, Krug is looking to have another big playoff game tonight.
As the period continued, Boston seemed to relax a little or Toronto just had their legs more. Both teams commit numerous icings consecutively but the Leafs are the ones getting shots and pressure on the Bruins defence. Tuukka Rask has made some good stops including some huge saves on Mitch Marner but the B’s need to be better defensively.
With around five minutes to go in the opening frame, the Bruins fourth line strikes first. Noel Acciari picks off a breakout pass by the Maple Leafs just on the line, feeding it to Sean Kuraly. Kuraly drives the puck in deeper, getting a shot on, but it is Joakim Nordstrom that somehow beats Andersen right in front of him. The puck found the smallest gap imaginable and quite frankly, I’m not sure Nordstrom even saw that opening. No matter what, Bruins are up 1-0 late in the first.
With the crowd going crazy in the TD Garden, Jake Gardiner makes a terrible turnover behind his own net with Kuhlman close behind him, leading the puck to Marcus Johansson who spins and shoots the puck past Andersen. Johansson finally gets on the board for his first goal of the postseason and Boston takes a big 2-0 lead late in the frame. With the constant pressure on the top-six by the Leafs, the Bruins’ bottom-six needs to show up and so far, they are.
As the final seconds tick away, Boston nearly strikes again with some good chances by DeBrusk, (who is all over the puck tonight) and Pastrnak. However, Andersen makes a big toe save and we enter the first intermission.
Shots on Goal: BOS: 11 TOR: 12
Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Nordstrom (2) Assists: Grzelcyk (4), Kuraly (1); Johansson (1) Unassisted
In the first five minutes, Bruins get some chances off a long airborne pass to Pastrnak but some fanned shots don’t result into anything. Exactly 3:54 into the period, John Tavares comes onto the ice, gets the puck, and snipes one far-side on Tuukka Rask to cut into Boston’s lead. Tyler Ennis does a great job taking the puck away from the Bruins player – resulting in the goal. 2-1 Bruins early in the second.
The goal for Toronto gave them tons of momentum as the Matthews line puts hard pressure on with some high-quality shots and chances but with the help of Rask’s play in net, Boston keeps it 2-1. The Bruins need a big hit or preferably, another goal to shift the momentum once again.
Eight minutes into the second, Zdeno Chara does a great job pinching to keep the puck in the offensive zone. As a result, Danton Heinen rips a wrist shot at Andersen’s chest, leaving a juicy rebound for Brad Marchand. Marchand shifts the puck to his backhand but cannot lift the shot over the sprawling Andersen. Extremely close opportunity to extend the lead to two goals again.
In a net-front battle, Brandon Carlo cross-checks the back of Andreas Johnsson and the officials are not going to have it and Carlo goes to the box for two minutes. I personally think it is a weak call, but it is called so Boston heads to the penalty-kill. The Maple Leafs get some close calls with the scary threats of Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Rielly but a lot of missed shots keep it a one-goal game. Boston successfully kills off the penalty.
Even though the game is back to 5-on-5, Boston is allowing the Leafs to walk all around their zone and they fully rely on Tuukka Rask in the net. Fortunately, Rask has made some big saves but the five skaters on the ice wearing the Spoked-B are chasing the Maple Leafs and cannot form any sort of breakout whatsoever.
Eventually, the Bruins get some offensive control of their own and the team is able to make a successful line change while in Toronto’s zone. In the final six minutes or so, the B’s have been able to shut down a lot of the chances against Rask and they have looked a bit better since the goal by Tavares.
With all of that, the second period ends there – only twenty minutes remain in Game Seven. The Boston Bruins finished the frame with a lot better pressure and much better control. Not as many shots, but a good end to the period. Also, some post-whistle pushing and shoving before we head into the second intermission.
Shots on Goal: BOS: 19 TOR: 25
Score: 2-1 Bruins – Goals: Tavares (2) Assists: Ennis (2)
Twenty minutes to go… and the Bruins strike early. Noel Acciari leaves the puck for Sean Kuraly in the neutral zone. Kuraly weaves into the Leafs zone with slick hands and snipes it clean past Rask. The clutch play by Sean Kuraly in the playoffs continue with this massive insurance goal less than three minutes into the third period. He has been a key player for Boston in the two games that he has returned.
With 14:41 to go in the third, the linesman catches the Bruins with six players on the ice – too-many-men – a bench minor that will put Boston to the penalty-kill for the second time tonight. Boston kills off the penalty will almost ease and it is back to 5-on-5, impressive to be honest.
As the minutes go by, the Bruins play gets better and better. All of a sudden, the Maple Leafs are having trouble entering the zone, especially Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Boston is not laying back, but not taking risks either. It is a calm style of game for the Bruins right now and it is exactly what they want.
Toronto did not have many great opportunities to score in the final regulation period, except for a close call that took a weird bounce off of the post. Mike Babcock pulled Andersen with roughly three minutes to go in the game and Sean Kuraly makes a nice play to allow Krejci to find Charlie Coyle who buries it in the open cage. Bruins take a 4-1 lead and are only minutes away from round two. Bergeron added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to make it 5-1.
And with that, the Boston Bruins eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games and advance to the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Shots on Goal: BOS: 32 TOR: 33
Final: 5-1 Bruins – BOS wins series 4-3
Max’s Three Stars
1st Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 28 Saves, .970 SV%
2nd Star: BOS F Sean Kuraly – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots, 50% Faceoffs
3rd Star: BOS F Joakim Nordstrom – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots