A week ago, Toronto was embarrassed in a 4-0 shutout loss to the Vancouver Canucks. It was a lost opportunity to prove to the rest of the league they were capable of defeating Stanley Cup contenders. They took nearly a week off before narrowly defeating the New Jersey Devils in a 2-1 shootout victory. A loss to a weak New Jersey team after so much time off would have been devastating for the Maple Leafs.
Since Toronto managed to pick up a crucial win over the Devils, they have a chance to silence all the critics who emerged after the Vancouver loss if they can defeat the Bruins in Boston. Everybody is well aware of the colossal collapse by the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of last year’s playoff series against the Bruins. The last thing needed in Toronto is more memories of losing to Boston.
A win over the Bruins would be like an early Christmas present to most Maple Leaf fans. Everybody would quickly forget how bad last week’s Vancouver game was because Toronto would have proven they can compete against the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
They’ll also have scored a big psychological win for the team being able to walk away from Boston with a victory after what happened in last year’s playoffs. Players on both sides will downplay the meaning of the game heading into it, but both sides know how badly Toronto wants to win. It’s a guarantee this game was circled on the calendar for many of the Maple Leafs.
If Toronto is going to win, they’ll need their best players to deliver their best games of the season. Phil Kessel, who hasn’t been very good in Boston, will no longer have to worry about finally playing good against his former club after breaking out for a big series last spring. After struggling at times against Boston in the playoffs, Dion Phaneuf will have to be the best defenseman in the game for the Maple Leafs to have success. If Toronto is going to defeat Boston, they need Kessel and Phaneuf to lead the way in erasing last spring’s bad memories.
This is the first time the two teams will meet and the game won’t feature Tyler Seguin. This will likely be a good thing for the Maple Leafs seeing as Seguin always seemed to score a hat trick against Toronto with the TD Garden crowd chanting, “Thank You Kessel.” The Kessel-Seguin trade discussion that once surrounded the two franchises is no longer nearly as one sided as it first used to be. Two years ago, Bruin fans were parading in the streets while claiming trading Kessel was the greatest move in Boston sports history. With Kessel emerging as one of the league’s best scorers and Seguin no longer a part of the Bruins organization, many in Boston now can’t believe they ever traded the American sniper.
If Kessel wants to continue to make Boston fans hate that their team’s organization traded him, he’ll need to do it with a big game on Saturday night. If he can deliver, this time it’ll be Toronto fans parading in the streets over their joy of the trade.