GOLD STAR: Playing in his 1400th NHL game, it was vintage Zdeno Chara on the back end for the Bruins. He posted an assist and a team-best plus-2 rating in 24 minutes of ice time, generated six shot attempts, threw five hits blocked two shots and completely shut down Auston Matthews right along with the Patrice Bergeron line. Chara was right in the middle of everything while leading the Bruins in ice time by a wide margin, and must have really given Toronto something to think about if the two Atlantic Division teams do end up facing each other down the line in the playoffs. The plus-2 adds to Chara’s team-best plus-27 rating on the season, which also puts him into a tie with Vegas’ William Karlsson for the NHL lead in plus/minus. It’s true that at 40 years old Chara is having one of his best seasons in recent memory and really looks like he could continue doing this for at least a couple more seasons in Boston.
BLACK EYE: Did Auston Matthews even play on Saturday night? Toronto’s golden boy was held scoreless with a minus-2 rating, one measly shot on net, and three giveaways in 17:15 of ice time while getting a steady dose of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron throughout the game. It had to be eye-opening for Matthews as to what he might expect if he gets locked up with the Black and Gold this spring, and how difficult a chore it’s going to be for the Leafs’ best offensive players going against a Bruins team playing at an extremely high level right now. That makes it two star players in a row that have been completely shut down as both Vladimir Tarasenko and Matthews in back-to-back games have done absolutely nothing against Boston’s best defensive players.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins really pulled away in the second period, outshooting the Leafs by an 11-7 margin and dropping a couple of goals on Toronto to break the 1-1 deadlock after the opening 20 minutes. What really opened the floodgates was a lazy tripping call on Patrick Marleau, who tripped Jake DeBrusk in the neutral zone rather than moving his feet with the play going right by him. It was an easy call right in front of the refs in the neutral zone, and that turned into a power play strike for David Pastrnak about 20 seconds later that broke open the tie game. Boston would another at the end of the period to really take control of the game, and then never looked back after that against a Leafs team that was outclassed at every turn.
HONORABLE MENTION: Torey Krug was excellent for the Bruins stepping up with Charlie McAvoy still feeling his way through a bit in his first game back. Krug had a goal and two points in 19:09 of ice time, and scored a big insurance power play strike at the end of the second period that really put the game out of reach for the Leafs. It was a beauty of a one-time strike off a good feed from Austin Czarnik and capped off a really strong night for No. 47 on the power play. Overall Krug had the two points, four shots on net, eight shot attempts overall and a hit in a solid night’s work on the back end. It feels like lately that Krug is taking his game to a higher level as he seems to do every season as he gets better as things go along.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 – the number of goals for Patrice Bergeron in his last 14 games, which gives him a team-leading 22 lamp-lighters on a season that’s turning out to be pretty special indeed for Boston’s best player.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “There wasn’t a lot of down moments for us. The battle level, the pace…Toronto, when we played them, I remember last year, early this year, they were really skating. I thought we out-skated them tonight. At least that’s the way I saw it. They’re on their third in four nights; could that have something to do with it? I don’t know. It seems like every team has a busy schedule, but I liked the way we skated. –Bruce Cassidy, on a very convincing 4-1 win for the Bruins that snapped a seven game losing streak at the hands of the Maple Leafs.