Six observations: Bruins 6, Leafs 3
November, 30, 2011
By James Murphy | ESPNBoston.com
The Boston Bruins are back in first place in the Northeast Division after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 in the first of a home-and-home set that concludes Saturday night at TD Garden. David Krejci led the way with a goal and two assists. Milan Lucic had two goals, Zdeno Chara had a goal and an assist, Nathan Horton had two helpers, and Brad Marchand and Benoit Pouliot each had a goal. Tim Thomas was stellar once again with 34 saves in the win.
For the Maple Leafs, Mikhail Grabovski, Joffrey Lupul and Matt Frattin lit the lamp and Jonas Gustavsson made 34 saves.
Top line awakens: Despite storming through November with points in all 13 games, rising to first place the Northeast Division and hovering near the top of the Eastern Conference, the Bruins' top trio of Lucic, Krejci and Horton had been eerily quiet. But on Wednesday, the top line finally woke up with a combined seven points in the win. Krejci led the way with three points while Lucic and Horton each had two. Krejci appeared to have his precise vision and passing going again, and Horton and Lucic did a great job of winning puck battles and driving to the net. When that line is clicking it's a thing of beauty, and they played some beautiful hockey Wednesday.
Chara en fuego: Zdeno Chara has been quietly having a Norris Trophy worthy season. With a goal and assist Wednesday, Chara has registered 16 points in his past 15 games. For the season, Chara has 18 points in 24 games and is a serious Norris Trophy candidate just past the quarter mark of the season. He is playing great two-way hockey and has been very active in the offensive zone, but in a timely and responsible manner.
Seguin vs. Kessel, Episode 9: The last time these two teams met, Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin completely outshined Phil Kessel with a hat trick, while Kessel was held pointless for the second straight time against Boston. Both players will always be linked, since Kessel was dealt to Toronto for what turned out to be the 2010 NHL draft's second overall pick, which the Bruins used to draft Seguin.
Heading into Wednesday Seguin had four goals and two assists against the Leafs this season and five goals and three assists in eight games against Kessel and Toronto. Meanwhile, Kessel had struggled against Seguin and the Bruins with no points in two games this season and five points in eight games against the Bruins with Seguin, and six points in 14 games against Boston overall.
Kessel was actually a lot better Wednesday, creating numerous chances for himself and assisting on Joffrey Lupul's second-period goal. Seguin chipped in with an assist and now has nine points in nine games against Kessel's Leafs.
Power play needs to be better: This was one of those hard-fought, back–and–forth divisional battles, and in games like this, special teams can be the difference. That's why Boston's power play needs to improve. The Bruins were just 1-for-5; they could've blown the game open with another goal or two on the man advantage. The Bruins have made it clear they can succeed without a solid power play, winning the Stanley Cup last spring ranked 14th out of 16th on the man-advantage with an 11.4 percent success rate going a woeful 10-for-88. The Bruins' power play has been average at best this season, and while they're making do again, they need to improve.
Win-vember for the Bruins: For the first time since 1969, the Bruins have gone a month without losing in regulation. With their 6-3 win Wednesday, the Bruins capped a 12-0-1 November, with three of those wins coming in the shootout. They entered the month at 3-7-0 and now stand at 15-7-1.
Thomas gets second straight start; lineup remains same: After making 34 saves in a 4-2 win over Winnipeg on Saturday night, Tim Thomas got the nod again Wednesday. Thomas made 34 saves – including a beauty on a Kessel breakaway late in the first period to preserve a 1-1 tie at the time. Thomas did let in one he probably wishes he could have back. Frattin's goal six minutes into the third was from a bad angle and went off Thomas' stick into the net. But overall Thomas was his usual self, coming up with big saves when his team needed them most. Thomas has not allowed more than three goals in a game this season and is now 12-4-0 with a 1.96 GAA and a .936 save percentage.
Here's what the rest of the lineup looked like:
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid