Well, that certainly wasn’t the return to the playoffs the Toronto Maple Leafs have been dreaming of for nine years, was it? The Boston Bruins struck back in Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, regaining the series lead with a 5-2 victory. Here are a few observations.
The Bruins third line looked better than ever.
Go figure, a line that looked dead in the water at times during the first two games of this series was the best on the ice tonight.
Jaromir Jagr, the ageless wonder, who continues to need an army to bump him off the puck, looked sharp and forced more than a few Toronto turnovers. One of these led to Boston’s second goal of the night, scored by Rich Peverley.
Speaking of which, what a game for the much-maligned forward. Peverley put a great Jagr feed behind Toronto goalie James Reimer to make it 2-0 Bruins, and looked incredible at the dot, going 9-for-10 on faceoffs.
Maybe we should just keep criticizing every Bruin who has anything less than a great game. After being raked over the coals in the two days after Game 2, Boston’s third line stole the show in Game 3.
Are playoff games Nathan Horton’s sole purpose in life?
I’m not even sure if I’m kidding here. Think about it. In the three regular seasons, Horton has been in Boston. The complaint has always been that he’s just too hot and cold, unable to stay consistent.
In the playoffs? Do we even need to talk about the 2011 Cup run? Horton had three game winning goals, two of which sent the opponent to the golf course.
This year seems to be going in the same direction. Horton has a goal in all three games of this series, and they’re coming in every variety possible. He potted a beautiful pass from Milan Lucic tonight just 50 seconds after the Maple Leafs cut the Bruins lead to 2-1.
Who knows if Horton can keep up the pace? But if he does, maybe Boston fans can table any future complaints about him fading out in the regular season.
The return of Andrew Ference had a bigger impact than you think.
Losing Ference for one game is by no means the same as losing Zdeno Chara. That being said, you could tell the Bruins were glad to have Ference back in Game 3.
For reasons only known to him, Boston coach Claude Julien juggled his defensive pairings in Game 2. This resulted in splitting up Chara and his usual playoff partner Dennis Seidenberg. Chara playing with Adam McQuaid or Dougie Hamilton is not nearly as effective as he is when he’s with Seidenberg. Ask any offensive player on the Maple Leafs.
With Ference back, the blue liners returned to their normal pairs. Think it was a coincidence Toronto only scored two goals instead of four?
Ference played a crucial role in breaking up some early Toronto breakouts to prevent scoring opportunities. Along with this, he also brought some grit back to the Bruins game.
Again, nobody’s nominating Ference for the Norris Trophy. However, in the two games he’s played, Boston’s defense seemed notably under control.
The Bruins were quick to ruin Toronto’s playoff homecoming.
The Air Canada Centre was louder than it had been since, well, the last time the Maple Leafs were in the playoffs nine years ago. Many Bruins fans had to be concerned about how this would affect a Boston team coming off a shaky loss.
Crisis averted. A five-goal output from the Bruins had Toronto fans doing their best impression of March; they came in like lions and left like lambs.
The Leafs faithful were as raucous as ever; all they needed was something to cheer for. When Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner brought the Maple Leafs within one in the second period, the Bruins struck twice in the span of three minutes to silence the sold out arena.
Boston certainly tried to make it interesting by getting stuck in their own zone during the third period and letting Toronto threaten a rally. However, David Krecji‘s empty-netter sealed the deal for the Bruins.
The atmosphere won’t be any different come Wednesday, but if the Bruins quiet the crowd the same way they did tonight, things may be looking good when the teams return to Boston for Game 5.