Bruins enter amped atmosphere as Toronto gets playoff hockey back
|05.05.13 at 7:49 pm ET|
TORONTO — These Bruins have dealt with a wider variety of atmospheres than any other team. They’ve played playoff games in Montreal, where the Bell Centre has been pretty close to deafening. They’ve played in front of an overly passionate Vancouver crowd with the Stanley Cup on the line. Most notably, they’ve played at TD Garden two days after a terrorist attack on their own city.
Obviously, the first two don’t compare to the third for pretty much every reason you could think of, but the B’s have seen more than their fair share of buzzing barns. They’ll probably be able to add Monday’s scene to the list, as Toronto will host its first playoff game since 2004. With the series tied at a game apiece, the crowd on Monday night will have plenty to be excited about.
The Air Canada Centre opened its doors in 1999, and the Maple Leafs made the playoffs in each of the arena’s first six seasons. Dougie Hamilton was just a kid (or, to put it correctly, a younger kid than he is now).
“I think I remember going to playoff games as a kid and I know the fans are pretty good in Toronto,” Hamilton said. “I’m sure it’ll be a really good atmosphere.”
The Air Canada Centre hasn’t hosted a postseason game since that six-season run, and you can bet that a city that eats, sleeps and breathes hockey (and produces NHL stars aplenty — Hamilton, Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton are among the big-name Bruins who hail from the area) will be more than up for the game.
More importantly, you can count on the Leafs being up for it. After looking like a team that didn’t know it was in the playoffs in Game 1, the Leafs boasted a more balanced attack (thanks to both altered lines and the Bruins playing a messy defensive game) and, with the exception of a ton of rebounds from James Reimer, looked far more confident in Game 2. Considering they won the game and got big production from its stars in Joffrey Lupul (two goals), Phil Kessel (his first even-strength goal against his former club) and James van Riemsdyk (his second goal in as many games as he continues to establish himself as a big-time playoff performer against the Bruins), they should be feeling good.
“We’ve got the best fans in the National Hockey League, so I’m sure they’ll be excited to cheer loud,” Dion Phaneuf said. “We’re happy with the way that we played [in Game 2], but we’ve got lots of work to do yet.”
So with a buzzing barn and a team coming off a big win to even the series, what can get in the way of Toronto taking a series lead or at least splitting the games at ACC? Two things: The obvious one is a better game from the Bruins, and the other is the play of Reimer.
The Toronto goalie made 39 saves on 41 shots in Game 2, but he gave up a ton of rebounds that the Bruins failed to take advantage of. Through two games he has hardly looked dominant (he was especially shaky in Game 1), but then again neither did Braden Holtby a year ago. The Bruins just didn’t give him much of a hard time, and that was the difference in the series.
The B’s will at the very least be better on paper in Game 3 than they were in Game 2, as the return of Andrew Ference will put Hamilton back in the press box and, more importantly, reunite the Game 1 pairings. That means that Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will be back together to shut down Kessel’s line, though Randy Carlyle will have the advantage of last change in his never-ending quest to get Kessel some looks against somebody other than Chara. Kessel’s breakaway goal in the third period of Game 2 came against the Seidenberg-Johnny Boychuk pairing.
The B’s should be better defensively in Game 3, which they’ll need. They’ll also need a bigger game from their forwards, most notably Jaromir Jagr. The veteran right wing hasn’t felt his best as he recovers from the flu, and he clearly hasn’t played his best. A big game out of him would help stabilize an offense that hasn’t had all of its lines going in far too long.
The Bruins are undoubtedly the better team, but they’ll need to be a better team than they were Saturday and drown out a heck of a lot of noise in Game 3.
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