The Toronto Maple Leafs could be out for more than revenge on the scoreboard when they host the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night.
A month ago, on Nov. 2 at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 in a shootout, but the biggest story to come from that game was Bruins captain Brad Marchand’s controversial play with Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren, who went on injured reserve with a lower-body injury the next day and hasn’t played since. There was no penalty called on what the Maple Leafs, their fans, and plenty of Toronto media thought was a slew-foot and, if not that, a dirty play.
How is that not a penalty!?
Liljegren leaves the game pic.twitter.com/gxL3S3jKTq
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 3, 2023
The one player the Maple Leafs really have to answer the bell in a situation like that, enforcer Ryan Reaves, did plenty of yapping from the bench and to the media over the next two days, but there was no response from him or any Leafs players for a play they felt crossed the line.
“It’s just lucky I wasn’t on the ice with him,” Reaves said. “Unfortunately, they had last change, so I didn’t get any shifts against them. That’s hockey.”
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t hold back when asked about his thoughts on the lack of reaction from Reaves and the entire Leafs team.
“I hated everything about it, and I’ve addressed it. It’s not what we want to be about,” Keefe told reporters. “At times, we’ve responded very well in those situations in the past. It’s about consistency, though.”
The only consistency from the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Reaves or the Leafs this season, though, has been their talk. So, despite a veiled threat to the 5-foot-9, 176-pound Brad Marchand above, the Boston Bruins captain and the Bruins shouldn’t be too worried for his safety on Saturday, and they didn’t seem to be following practice on Friday. The Bruins were in the Maple Leafs’ situation on Nov. 22 when they faced the Florida Panthers for the first time since Charlie McAvoy laid a vicious headshot on Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson on Oct. 30. McAvoy was suspended for four games, but to the Panthers’ credit, they still made life miserable for McAvoy in a 3-1 win for the Bruins on Thanksgiving Eve. As they did that night, the Bruins plan to answer any shenanigans from the Maple Leafs on Saturday.
“The same way we did in Florida [with Charlie McAvoy], we’re going to make sure we’re all in there together if anything does occur,” Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters on Friday. “But we know we’ve got a hockey game, and we’re pretty close in the standings…and two teams that are expected to be near the top of the division. So, this is a big game going into Toronto on a Saturday night. We’re focused on our task at hand.”
Unlike the Maple Leafs on Nov. 2, the Bruins answered the bell when San Jose Sharks 6-foot-2, 214-pound winger Givani Smith laid a textbook hit from behind on Bruins captain Brad Marchand in the second period of the Bruins’ 3-0 over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. After Bruins defenseman Derek Forbort roughed Smith up in the initial aftermath of the hit, 6-foot-3, 220-pound Bruins winger Trent Frederic sought Smith out in the third period and went toe-to-toe with him.
Trent Frederic and Givani Smith are not big fans of each other.
— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) December 1, 2023
“You don’t want people hitting Marchy,” Frederic told reporters. “He’s our captain. Everybody loves him in here, and he’s obviously a great player. You don’t want him getting hit like that.”
The read here is it won’t come to that with the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, but by all accounts, if it does, Frederic and the Bruins are ready.