The Boston Bruins and the host Toronto Maple Leafs will have something to prove when they meet for the third time this season on Friday night.
The Bruins, who were off to a strong start Tuesday, squandered a four-goal lead against the Florida Panthers at home and lost 5-4 in a shootout. Boston has now lost four in a row (0-2-2).
The Maple Leafs dropped their third straight game (0-2-1) with a 5-4 decision to the host New York Islanders on Wednesday. It was their second consecutive 5-4 defeat.
The Bruins and Maple Leafs split home-and-home games Oct. 19-22, with each team winning at home.
“Yeah, you’ve got to be concerned,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after Tuesday’s defeat. “It’s the strength of our team to close out games. I think we had a perfect record when we had a lead going into the third period. It’s a trademark of this team. So, yeah, it is a concern.”
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who had a strong first month of the season, has lost his last three starts and can take a large part of the blame in two of them.
“I should have been sharper in that third period,” Rask said after the game Tuesday “A couple of soft goals.”
The Bruinshave some injury problems with Jake DeBrusk, David Backes, Brett Ritchie, Karson Kuhlman and Torey Krug on the sideline. The Bruins did not use that as an excuse on Tuesday.
“You give the other team some life, and then it snowballs,” Rask said. “At that point, you can’t regain your speed and confidence. Momentum just takes it the other way and you can’t recover.”
The Bruins will be tested with the game in Toronto, followed by a home game Saturday against the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals.
“It’s going to sting for a few days, but maybe it’ll be a good motivating factor going into Toronto and then playing Washington,” Cassidy said. “We’ve got two strong teams coming up. Hopefully our guys have a little bit of burr in their saddle and want to get back in the win column.”
With 22 points after 20 games, Toronto is two points behind the minimum set by coach Mike Babock for that segment.
Babcock, however, feels the new players like Alex Kerfoot, Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci and Dmytro Timashov have yet to settle in on the team.
Injuries also have been a factor with Mitch Marner currently out for at least four weeks with a sprained ankle. Zach Hyman played his first game of the season Wednesday after knee surgery. Travis Dermott missed the first 13 games because of shoulder surgery and captain John Tavares missed seven games with a broken finger.
“In 20 games you have a handle on what you are,” Babcock said. “For us this year, it’s a bit different, it has taken us the full 20. We had so many changes and we’re still getting to know each other just a bit. We still haven’t put our lines together. But the reality is, you’ve now seen the league, you’ve seen how fast it is, games five to 10. And now it will just get faster and faster.”
Said Tavares: “Obviously, we want to play a lot better, a lot more consistent. We’ve got to keep working to find a way. At times it feels like it’s going against us and that’s just the nature of it.”
–Field Level Media