After Thursday night’s disappointing loss on home ice in the first game of the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it should not have been a surprise to anyone that the Boston Bruins ratcheted up their intensity and their physicality when the puck dropped Saturday night. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy started the game with his fourth line of Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner, which certainly gave an insight into what had been discussed before the game began.
“Well, we need to be on time with our start. We knew that we didn’t play to our identity in Game 1. We’re aware of it and we want to move past it and have a good response game. How do you respond? You’re physical, win the puck battles, control momentum in the first period, attack when you have the chance, puck possession. We had a lot of check lists. Basically, let them know how we’re going to play and kind of tilt it in our favor after that,” Coach Cassidy said after the game.
The Bruins have long relied on their physical side—it is a part of their identity—and when they embrace it, they tend to play a much better game. By the end of the first period, David Backes was leading the team with four hits, while David Krejci had three. Three other players—Zdeno Chara, Jake DeBrusk, and David Pastrnak—each had two hits.
“You saw [Pastrnak] play a few bodies and that kind of gets you jacked up. We didn’t want to chase hits by any means, but you know it kind of builds momentum and gets the crowd into it. Yeah, definitely energizes the bench. We think we turn into a bunch of cheerleaders when they do that. It just means they’re invested like we are. It’s not like I’m going to go toe drag somebody after they go hit someone but, yeah, it’s fun to watch because you know they care and that’s one way to show it,” Wagner said of the skill players throwing the hits.
That physicality may also have forced the Maple Leafs players to toss the puck before they were ready in an attempt to avoid the hit. When the game was finished the hit totals were 44-39 in favor of the Bruins, with every player on the Boston bench registering at least one hit. While the first game had its moments of physicality, Game 2 brought it to an entirely new level, but at the same time the Bruins were playing a much better puck game as well. They were able to limit the Leafs takeaway chances to just seven in the second game, compared to the astounding 19 takeaways Toronto had in the first game. Likewise, the Bruins increased their chances to regain the puck by doubling their takeaways from six to 12.
There had been some question after Thursday’s game if DeBrusk would be playing, as he had not been on the ice for practice on Friday. He definitely did play and it seemed that he and Nazem Kadri were drawn to each other, like magnets, whenever they were both on the ice. The two of them got matching minors for roughing in the first period. There was a hit by DeBrusk on Kadri during the second period that appeared to be knee-on-knee, though nothing was called on the ice. Kadri went down the tunnel, but he was back on the ice for the third period. And it was in the third, after DeBrusk’s hit on Patrick Marleau, that Kadri cross-checked DeBrusk in the face. DeBrusk went down and was quite still on the ice for a bit. The Bruins’ trainer came out to attend to him, and DeBrusk headed down the tunnel to be looked after. Kadri, likewise, headed down his respective tunnel, when he was served a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
“I did a series of tests. Just hoping [they] come back negative at this point,” DeBrusk said after the game about how he was doing.
Unfortunately for Toronto, Kadri’s decision to make that hit on DeBrusk took the momentum away from his team. They had been the stronger of the teams during the third period. They’d begun to outshoot the Bruins, and Kadri had tipped in a puck to make the score 3-1 with 9:16 remaining in the game. However, instead, Patrice Bergeron put the Bruins up 4-1 one minute into the five-minute power play, and that would be the final score. And it was announced after the game that Kadri will have a hearing with NHL Player Safety.
Toronto’s Nazem Kadri has been offered an in-person hearing for Cross-checking Boston’s Jake DeBrusk. Date and time TBD.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 14, 2019
With all the physical play, there were a couple of additional situations that resulted in the Bruins having just four defensemen to finish the game. Torey Krug took a hard hit from Jake Muzzin in the second period, which saw Krug go down on the ice while his helmet went flying. He went down the tunnel and did not return to the game. Then during the third period, Connor Clifton took a hit and had to exit the game.
However, as the teams head to Toronto, it is no surprise that the Bruins plan is to continue their physical game.
“We didn’t over play one line. We were able to share that a lot and from that play some good hard minutes on each line and get everyone into the game but not overtax anyone, so we were able to keep up the intensity. When they made a push, we had enough juice in the tank to push back. We’re going to need to keep that intensity for the next five games if necessary and we’ll see what happens. But I loved our intensity tonight,” Backes said.
The series is tied as the teams head to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 to be played on Monday and Wednesday nights. The Bruins will indeed need to take the crowd out of things as quickly as possible on Monday, but also need to be sure to keep their physicality on the right side of the refs. Meanwhile it is likely that the Maple Leafs will be without Kadri for at least a game or two.