All that was missing was a blindfold and a cigarette.
From the second that the puck was dropped to begin Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple leafs, it was obvious how the teams were going to approach the game.
Toronto was free and clear with orders to fire at will. Boston needed a nap.
In truth, the Bruins play was so uninspired to begin the game that by rights they should have been down 3-0 after one, as the Bruins’ defense left Rask at the mercy of the Toronto firing squad.
Yet, somehow, there they were with a scoreless tie after one period and just a 1-0 advantage for the Maple Leafs after two, courtesy of Tyler Bozak’s short handed breakaway goal – nudging the bear into that foggy realm between sleep and wakefulness…
…but it wasn’t until Toronto’s Clarke MacArthur snapped the Leafs’ second goal past Boston goal tender Tuukka Rask at just under two minutes of the final frame that the bear was fully awake and realizing it was at a disadvantage, but by that time it was too late.
This is not a new story, as the Bruins have had stretches of games where they’ve started slowly, sometimes recovering in time to earn a point or two, but most of the time – particularly down the stretch – they would turn it on too late to end up with anything but ugly losses.
The Bruins had their opportunities in this game once they got the blood pumping, but Toronto net minder James Reimer was a wall, turning away Bruins’ tries time and again – and coupled with the Leaf’s manic attack that kept the Bruins pinned in their defensive zone for large stretches, Reimer and his mates have earned the right to live for one more day…
…hosting a Game 6 back home in Toronto. And if you think the desperate Maple Leafs’ frenzied attack was overwhelming in their 2-1 victory over Boston in Game 5 on Friday night at TD Garden, wait until you get a load of the Leafs’ effort in front of thier fans inside Air Canada Centre on Sunday evening.
And outside,too, as thousands of rabid Maple Leafs fans will again gather to party it up and make lots of noise in hopes that their hometown boys can force a Game 7 back in Boston on Monday night.
“I’m sure that we’ve poked the Bruins,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “They’re going to be a very desperate team come Sunday night, and we have to be equally desperate.”
Not sure about the “desperate” part when it comes to the Bruins, but they certainly have been poked and need to show more urgency from start to finish. Toronto outshot Boston 19-8 in the first period and the edge was 25-12 in the second before the Bruins outshot the Leafs 32-8 the rest of the way – including 19-4 in the third.
Result? One goal, a wicked snipe from the left point from defenseman Zdeno Chara.
Bozak started the scoring, intercepting a misplayed puck that deflected off of Andrew Ference’s skate in the neutral zone and outraced Ference to the crease and beat a stunned Rask for the 1-0 advantage, then just into the third period, MacArthur used his speed to sweep around Johnny Boychuck and snap the puck behind Rask for the two goal lead.
Chara’s drive finished the scoring, though the scoring chances continued for the now fully awake bears, but with several near misses and Reimer stonewalling everything he could reach, the Bruins were packing for their trip to Toronto instead of getting some rest and healing up for the conference semi-finals…
…but perhaps being awakened by the aggressive Leafs will translate into an earlier effort in the Air Canada Centre on Sunday, otherwise a winner take all scenario will exist in Boston on Monday night, and that is a volatile situation that the bear would be best to try and avoid…