---- — BOSTON — The Boston Bruins should have beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs, say, 4-2 last night.
With a little luck, it could’ve been 6-2, with the game turning into a shooting gallery for the Bruins the last 14 minutes and 16 seconds (B’s outshot Leafs, 13-1)
But because of the proverbial “puck didn’t bounce” their way, with at least four easy-looking opportunities from in front not going in, the Bruins lost Game 4 here at the T.D. Garden, 2-1. So they have to take another late night trip to Toronto for tomorrow night’s Game 6.
The extra flight, though, isn’t as much a concern as the fact that something is missing.
Every player of note wearing a spoked “B” the last week has been accounted for since the Bruins flicked the “playoff” switch last week. That includes the lights-out goalie (Tuukka Rask), the shut-down defenseman (Zdeno Chara), the playmaker (David Krejci), the two-way guy (Patrice Bergeron) and even the semi-return of the enforcer (Milan Lucic).
Except, as President Barack Obama’s writers so aptly nicknamed him 18 months ago, “The Little Ball of Hate.”
Where is Brad Marchand?
And we’re not just talking about his point production — he has no goals and two assists in the series. We’re talking about his presence. We’re talking about his, well, pestiness.
Both Leafs goals were the product of Bruins gaffes — Andrew Ference failed to ward off Tyler Bozak on a loose puck and Johnny Boychuck and Nathan Horton missed on a connection.
But Marchand’s inability to do anything of note in 16:06 of action last night was the biggest reason the Bruins have to spend two more days in Toronto.
While it seemed everybody took their whacks at Leafs goalie James Reimer, who faced 44 shots (Chara had eight shots, Jaromir Jagr had seven and Marchand’s linemates Bergeron and Tyler Seguin had six apiece), Marchand had none.
“It’s not good enough,” said Marchand, who led the team in goals (18) and points (36) during the shortened regular season. “I have to play better. I have to keep things simple, just shoot the puck more.”
The shots and goals would be nice, but being in the middle of a few scrums or winning a few more battles along the boards would be nicer.
Maybe the problem is there really isn’t any animosity between the teams. Other than Phil Kessel, whom the Bruins sic Chara on every time, there isn’t anybody from Toronto to despise.
It seems those are the kind of guys Marchand likes to pester. And when he’s pestering, he’s usually scoring and assisting, too.
The Bruins, it seems, have a lot going their way.
While the Leafs have the most explosive forwards, the Bruins win most of the battles when the puck is in the Leafs’ end of the ice, leading to many good scoring opportunities.
They are the better team.
But while we like to think they are on track to emulating the team which won the Stanley Cup two years ago, they aren’t even close without Marchand being Marchand.
“Everyone has to be better prepared,” said 5-foot-8, 190-pound Marchand. “Maybe we weren’t prepared for the Leafs and what they brought.”
I have three things to say to that: Look in the mirror. Make something happen. And bring back a little “hate” into your game.
The Bruins’ playoff future may hinge on it.
You can e-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
agateHed:Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 1
agate_NHL_line3:Toronto 0 1 1—2
Boston 0 0 1—1
agateText bold to dash:First Period - None.
agateText bold to dash:Second Period - 1, Toronto, Bozak 1, 11:27 (sh).
agateText bold to dash:Third Period - 2, Toronto, MacArthur 2, 1:58. 3, Boston, Chara 1 (Krejci, Seidenberg), 11:12.
agateText bold to dash:Shots on Goal - Toronto 19-10-4 - 33. Boston 8-17-19 - 44.
agateText bold to dash:Goalies - Toronto, Reimer. Boston, Rask. A - 17,565 (17,565). T - 2:34.