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Game 76: Boston Bruins at Toronto Marliefs

Boston is back on the road for another four-game stint, beginning tomorrow night in Toronto.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Just the Facts:

  • Game Time: 7:00 PM
  • TV Broadcast: NESN, CBC
  • Radio Broadcast: 98.5 The Sports Hub, Sportsnet 590 AM
  • Series Record: Bruins 3-0-1 vs. Maple Leafs 1-2-1
  • Season Record: Bruins 39-28-8, 86 points | Maple Leafs 27-35-11, 65 points

The Bruins are slipping. Hard. Fast. Furiously. And they now head back on the road for a four-game trip that steadily increases in difficulty. Next week, Boston will be facing the Central's 1-2-punch of the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks before coming home, so they need to make their first two games count. That starts tomorrow night at Air Canada Centre in Toronto against the varsity AHL squad that Babcock, Shanahan, and Lamoriello are currently throwing on the ice each night.

Game Notes:

The Bruins find themselves just one point ahead of both the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, a scenario that seemed absurd before Boston dropped five games straight without taking so much as a point in any of those games. But team play has plummeted at both ends of the ice, resulting in some serious rear-end-clenching. The Bruins have scored 3+ goals just once over the last eight games. Over the same span, they've allowed 3+ goals a five times. Since their crazy 5-4 overtime win over the Florida Panthers on March 7th, the team as a whole has been out-scored 22-to-12.

The forward group in particular has hid the skids at an alarming rate this month. Patrice Bergeron, robbed of a goal against Florida on Thursday night, has one point over his last six games. Loui Eriksson has one goal in his last five games. Leading goal-scorer Brad Marchand is goal-less with a lone assist over his last five, and has one goal over his last ten games played. Ryan Spooner had a goal against the Panthers on Thursday, but that's his only point his last five. And David Krejci has one goal in his last sixteen games played, and zero points over the last four games. It's no surprise that they've been losing games when their team shooting percentage is 4.59% since March 8th.

But it's not all offensive woes. The defense has been porous yet again, even though that was to be expected all year. Torey Krug is a -4 with a single assist over his last five games. Dennis Seidenberg is a -7, with one point since March 5th. And while usually plus/minus is a stat that can be easily manipulated, it actually is in line with the teams scoring chances allowed this year.  This year has career lows in FenwickFor for Torey Krug (50.0%), Kevan Miller (49.3%), Zdeno Chara (48.3%), and Adam McQuaid (47.4%). Dennis Seidenberg narrowly beats out his career low from last year, but only by 0.2%. Yes, the system has changed a bit. But right now, only Colin Miller (AHL) and John-Michael Liles (injured) have Corsi percentages over 50%. That's not how you win games in this league.

Meanwhile, one of the best Corsi% teams since the trade deadline is surprisingly the Toronto Maple Leafs. A team comprised of journeymen veterans and recently promoted prospects has won three games straight, and is 6-3-1 over their last ten games. Since their 5-game losing streak that finished a couple days after the trade deadline, the Maple Leafs have proceed to grab points in 7 of their next 9 games. While this might not be a winning formula if your end-game is drafting Auston Mathews, it certainly gives Leafs fans hope for seasons to come.

Toronto has won games despite having an injury list about as long as War and Peace. The Leafs are going into Saturday's game without skaters like Brad Boyes, Peter Holland, Joffrey Lupul, and James van Riemsdyk. One of their better forward in Leo Komarov has missed the last four games with a lower body injury, but may make a return against Boston, along with rookie Nikita Soshnikov. Somehow, Michael Grabner has stayed healthy and avoided this list for the vast majority of the season.

But the guys who have been on the ice, like point-leader Nazem Kadri, have found ways to win with help on the back-end. Jonathan Bernier is finally playing like an NHL-caliber goaltender again, with a .947 save-percentage and 1.62 goals against average over his last five starts. And this is behind a defensive grouping with an average age of around 23. Yet, despite the lack of experience, guys like Gardiner, Marincin, and Corrado have been able to do enough to get this team in a position to grab a point, if not a win, in recent weeks.

Never Forget:

This time last year, when the Bruins also desperately needed a win to stay in playoff contention, they edged out a shootout victory against Toronto. The circumstances aren't all that different, so let's make this a repeat.

Fancy Stats:

Do disallowed goals count as Corsi? Unfortunately, fancy stats couldn't get Boston a win over the Sunrise Cats on Thursday. Shot attempts favored Boston for the majority of the game, before the Panthers caught up and capitalized with two goals in the final 10 minutes.