Playing in their first game at TD Garden since last year’s collapse in the playoffs, the Maple Leafs gave the Bruins everything they could handle and more. Ultimately their effort came up short, but given their performance and the injuries the club is dealing with Toronto showed they can compete against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
It’s hard to ask more of James Reimer, who by stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced appeared to exorcise last spring’s playoff demons. There was a lot of discussion as to whether or not Reimer should start in Boston or if the Maple Leafs should put Jonathan Bernier between the pipes. Coach Randy Carlyle made the right decision by letting Reimer play against the team that beat him last spring as only a pair of power play goals were able to beat the Maple Leafs goaltender. Reimer had one of his best games of the season and gave Toronto every chance to succeed in the contest.
With strong goaltending the only thing that plagued the Maple Leafs was their inability to put the puck in the net. Strong special games have carried Toronto through the first-quarter of the season, but that wasn’t the case against the Bruins. The Maple Leafs failed to score on three power plays and gave up two power play goals on the penalty kill.
Considering it wasn’t that long ago that Boston used to dominate Toronto for the full 60 minutes any time the two teams played, only losing as a result of special teams is hardly something to be disappointed in. Special teams can easily be fixed by simply not taking dumb penalties in the future, such as the dumb penalty James van Riemsdyk took just moments after his team tied the game. van Riemsdyk was called for a four-minute high-sticking penalty at the end of the second period after his stick cut the face of a Bruin player. Toronto was able to kill off nearly three minutes of the penalty before Boston scored what eventually went on to be the game-winning goal.
Despite the loss, Toronto never backed down from Boston even without key players in the lineup. If Dave Bolland and Tyler Bozak would have been playing center for the Maple Leafs there’s no question the contest would have been different. However, injuries are something every team must overcome, and Toronto did a good job of standing their ground and not giving up anything easy to the Bruins. The Maple Leafs were physical all night, whether it was David Clarkson crashing into players on the boards or Dion Phaneuf sending Daniel Paille to the ice with a monster hit.
This wasn’t an example of a team intimidated by the opposition like many Maple Leaf fans have seen in the past. Instead this was a Toronto team determined to prove they were better and that they can compete with the best teams in the conference. The Maple Leafs might not have shown they were better on this night, but they certainly showed they can compete toe-to-toe with Boston.