Bruins-Maple Leafs Preview
After a perfect four-game homestand, the Boston Bruins depart TD Garden for the first time this month to a place where they might feel equally comfortable.
The Bruins easily won in Toronto last month and have mostly dominated the Maple Leafs in recent seasons heading into Wednesday night's matchup.
Boston (10-6-0) has won five in a row as the offense has stayed hot following a dreadful five-game start to the season during which it scored six goals. The Bruins have since averaged 3.63 goals, though coach Claude Julien wants to see the upward trend continue.
"We're going to expect more out of our team the whole year," Julien said. "We never get satisfied. I'm happy with the game, and I use that term all the time, but I'm not satisfied. I think there's still areas we continue to work."
Boston dispatched New Jersey 4-2 on Monday night behind a three-point game from Patrice Bergeron and a highlight-reel, go-ahead goal from Seth Griffith.
"We're building every game," center Chris Kelly said. "We're still learning how to play consistently and how to perfect our game. That's all part of playing 82 games, is learning from mistakes and learning from when you've done something well and building on that."
Another key to the homestand was Tuukka Rask allowing seven goals in the four games, a big improvement from an up-and-down October when the reigning Vezina Trophy winner had a 2.82 goals-against average. His best performance that month came in Toronto, making 32 saves in a 4-1 victory Oct. 25.
Rask has won his last four starts there, surrendering three goals, and is 10-2-0 with a 1.57 GAA lifetime against the Maple Leafs. He's a big reason Boston is 12-2-1 in the series since the start of 2011-12, including 6-1-1 in Toronto.
So is Bergeron, who has seven goals and seven assists in the last eight meetings. He had seven points on the homestand after having only five through the first 12 games.
Toronto (8-5-2) has been enjoying a hot spell as well, going 5-1-1 in its last seven.
The Maple Leafs netted five goals on back-to-back nights over the weekend, downing Ottawa 5-3 in their most recent contest Sunday. Peter Holland scored his second goal in as many games and James Reimer made 38 saves.
"It's huge especially with the back-to-back we just had," Holland said. "Anytime you can get two points against a divisional team it's a big win."
The win over the Senators marked only the Leafs' second Atlantic Division victory in six chances this season. They've come from behind in each of their past three wins.
"There've been games where we've gotten down. We just continue to battle and continue to play," winger James van Riemsdyk said. "... We have a tight knit group, and no one really gets too down on each other, or down in general."
Toronto still seeks improvement defensively, having allowed at least three goals in four straight and ranking among the league's worst in shots allowed at 33.3 per game.
"With us, we've always talked that this group can score goals. We got to defend. We got to prevent goals," coach Randy Carlyle said. "That's one of the things we're trying to do. We've played more of a grinding game. We've played more an offensive zone time game. Those are the things we think we'll bring the shot totals down and allow us to form an identity."
Reimer and Jonathan Bernier continue to split time in Toronto's net, though Reimer might be the better option Wednesday with a 1.75 goals-against average in his last six games versus the Bruins. Bernier has a 4.46 lifetime GAA against them and was pulled in the third period of last month's matchup after allowing four goals.
Bruins forward David Krejci will not make the trip to Toronto as he continues to deal with an undisclosed injury.