While David Pastrnak and Linus Ullmark fielded questions from the myriad of media outlets yesterday at the NHL’s 2023 All-Star game festivities, backdropped by a picturesque South Florida sandy beach. New Englanders were gearing up for what is set to be a historically frigid weekend. Wind chills will make the outside air dip down into double-digit negatives. Perhaps encouraged by the collective sigh of relief from Boston Bruins fans after their ‘lengthy’ three-game losing skid was snapped Wednesday night against heated divisional rival the Toronto Maple Leafs in their building by a final score of 5-2.
Jokes aside, this Bruins squad has become accustomed to lengthy streaks. But losing streaks, while not welcomed, are inevitable. So despite their consistent success, it was encouraging to see Boston take full advantage of the opportunity to get back into the win column. Especially against Toronto, who statistically ranks 3rd in the NHL in points.
You’d be forgiven in assuming Boston’s five goals were fueled by their more dynamic offensive threats. But that is what makes this victory all the more impressive. Largely, the game was won with contributions from unlikely sources.
Not known for his offense, Derek Forbort has made a name for himself in Boston by morphing into the team’s most important pillar during the penalty kill. So when Trent Frederic blocked a Mitch Marner power-play shot into the Maple Leafs’ defensive zone, Forbort acknowledged the opportunity to join the rush. Following some gorgeous board work by Frederic to win a 50/50 battle against Marner and a beautiful backhand pass into space from Coyle, Forbort took to offering and deposited his second short-handed goal of the season. The momentum-altering goal was Forbort’s fourth of the year, tying his career high.
Roughly six minutes following the Forbort’s icebreaker, and back in Toronto’s zone. Boston, by virtue of slick puck management, once again from Coyle’s line, caught the hockey universe off guard when stay-at-home-defenseman Brandon Carlo broke the 1-1 tie with a “beanbag toss” goal, his second of the year.
Picking up where Boston left off in the second period, Jakub Lauko warded off Timothy Liljegren and intercepted a Pierre Engvall pass, allowing AJ Greer to gain possession and exit his own zone with speed. Lauko quickly transitioned and joined the rush through the neutral zone allowing Greer the space to fire a missile past the glove of Leaf netminder Ilya Samsonov. Minutes into the 3rd period, Boston found themselves up 3-1 off the back of hard work from their bottom six forwards.
It is worth mentioning Pavel Zacha scored back-to-back goals to make the score 5-2 in favor of Boston. The last of which were assisted by David Krejci and David Pastrnak.
Historically speaking, teams who find themselves hoisting the Stanley Cup in mid-June attribute success equally across four forward lines and three defensive pairings. Interestingly enough, the phrase “no passengers” was used by analysts to describe the intensity level of both teams following last year’s Stanley Cup Final between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Effort levels like that of Wednesday night in Toronto from Boston are the exact formula for a deep playoff run. But let’s not put the cart before the horse.