We may find out someday in the distant future that Saturday night’s 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs is exactly what the Boston Bruins needed at this point in the season.
The Bruins had been battling some of the midseason winter doldrums before and after the Winter Classic, and those were punctuated on Thursday night by a shutout loss to the Seattle Kraken that perhaps served as a bit of a wakeup call.
The second part of that “dog days” alarm clock going off was the Toronto Maple Leafs coming to town on Saturday night, the second-best team in the NHL and the closest thing to competition that the Boston Bruins have in the Atlantic Division.
The Leafs pushed them to the limit before Matt Grzelcyk scored with less than two minutes remaining in the third period for the game-winner in a 4-3 victory. It wasn’t a must-win by any means and pushes Boston’s divisional cushion to a staggering 11 points in the Atlantic Division, and nine points over the Carolina Hurricanes the NHL’s best record.
But it served as a reminder that the Boston Bruins are going to need to elevate their game down the stretch headed into the Stanley Cup playoffs, and be at their best as Toronto pushed them to in a Hockey Night in Canada game. Whether it was the fitstucuffs and nastiness, Linus Ullmark absolutely robbing Mark Giordano or AJ Greer stepping up in a big moment, there was plenty for the Boston Bruins to hang their hat in an emotional, statement victory.
What a save by Linus Ullmark on Mark Giordano. pic.twitter.com/57RTdBi56u
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 15, 2023
“I think the game meant more to us than I imagined before the game,” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. “I think that’s my biggest takeaway, and I’m glad it did. We’re proud of not having lost two in a row, and there was a purpose to what we were doing, not only because it was the second-place team in Toronto that we were playing, but we don’t want to lose two in a row, because if you get into a playoff, you lose two in a row, you’re in a little bit of a hole.”
To Montgomery’s point, the Boston Bruins are now 9-0-0 in games after a loss this season and that’s been a big part of their winning formula. Everybody on both sides knew there was more on the table than a simple two points when Nick Foligno stepped in and fought Wayne Simmonds after he threw a hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo.
“I think the energy was there, the fans were engaged, we were engaged on both sides,” said Bergeron, who scored the Bruins first goal off a slick feed from Brad Marchand that tied up the game in the first period. “Those are the type of games we’re going to see down the road – and probably in the playoffs. It was a great game, and it was fun to be a part of it. It was two good teams going at it.”
Certainly the Bruins aren’t going to be playing in that kind of intense environment every day and not every team has players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner pushing the B’s as hard as they did on Saturday. But the Black and Gold need to keep finding ways to create intensity, motivation and emotion while looking for more “alarm clock” games in the second half of the season as they’re pretty clearly rolling to a President’s Trophy barring anything unforeseen over the last few months ahead of the NHL postseason.