The Boston Bruins may have scored four goals and the Toronto Maple Leafs may have scored one, but the game was over before the drop of the puck.
When Bruce Cassidy sent out the fourth line of Chris Wagner, Noel Acciari and Joakim Nordstrom to counter the John Tavares line, he was sending a message that was loud and clear: the Bruins' physicality was going to be ramped up.
And ramped up it was.
"Yeah, I just wanted to get into the game," said Wagner of that first shift. "And if you start a skilled line you kind of want to establish a forecheck and be hard on them. We have done it all year. Me, Noel, Nordy, and Kuraly. It's a big responsibility and I thought we did a pretty good job tonight."
Within the first few minutes, countless Maple Leafs were thrown around like baseballs over at Fenway Park.
"We're not a team that runs from a physical game," said Cassidy. "I think it brings out the best of us at times. You have to stay on the right side of things and make sure you score and defend and you're doing all that. That was the ask tonight and it happened for us."
Cassidy started the fourth line lots of times throughout the regular season, but shied away from it when Sean Kuraly went down. After Patrice Bergeron's line lost their matchup with the Tavares line in Game 1, the grinders at the bottom of the lineup were the next group up.
"Yeah, if you want to call them a fourth line," said David Backes when asked about the fourth line playing well against the Leafs' top guns. "I don't know, maybe fourth line, they get the matchup responsibility in this league, but that crew of men were willing to take on three really good hockey players and did an admirable job against them. Didn't give them much space to operate and played in their zone quite a bit."
"We needed him to [participate in the physicality>; we needed other players to do it," he said. "All of a sudden, it dragged people in -- Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak had some great hits."
Backes' physicality directly led to the first goal when he and Danton Heinen forechecked Nikita Zaitsev into coughing up the puck. Backes was the one that delivered the pass to Charlie Coyle who ripped home the first goal of the game.
The Maple Leafs said they knew the physical game was coming, but admitted they didn't handle it properly.
"I thought in the first period we weren't good enough," said Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. "I thought our third period we're coming and doing good things, but to me it took us too long. The way they [Bruins> played tonight, I don't think surprised anyone in our room, but we didn't execute and handle it."
The Bruins outhit the Maple Leafs 44-39. They outshot them 41-31. They outscored them 4-1.
Noticing a trend?
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