TORONTO – Nazem Kadri and the Toronto Maple Leafs hope the Boston Bruins’ winning ways stay in March.
The Bruins went 15-0-1 last month before seeing that point streak snapped with a 3-2 loss at the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. They’re at Air Canada Centre Thursday for the second half of back-to-backs as the Leafs try again to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“That’s history, that stuff’s already happened and we’re living in the present right now,” Kadri said. “At the end day we’ve got to come out there and we’ve got to give a better effort because I think these points mean a little more to us than them.”
Boston (52-18-6, 110 points) is essentially locked in to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Its only motivation in the standings is to finish ahead of the St. Louis Blues to capture the Presidents’ Trophy for home ice throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
At 82 points, the Leafs (37-32-8) trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by one for the East’s second and final wild-card spot. The Blue Jackets, who visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, have two more games to play than Toronto.
“We like to know what spot we’re in and what position we’re in,” Kadri said. “We understand where we’re at and where we need to go, so tonight’s an important building step in that direction, so we’ve got to make sure we come out ready to go.”
Kadri reiterated what defenceman Jake Gardiner said Wednesday: that the Leafs feel they match up well against the Bruins. If nothing else, winger James van Riemsdyk knows Boston is a measuring stick.
“I don’t know if I’d use that wording, but, yeah, I think whenever you play a team like them, they’re a good team, you know you have to have your best game to give yourself a chance,” van Riemsdyk said. “I think we rise to that challenge in that regard.”
The Red Wings certainly rose to the challenge Wednesday to come back to hand the Bruins their first regulation loss in a month. Detroit needed goals from Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist plus 33 saves and an incredible performance from Jimmy Howard to do it.
But Leafs coach Randy Carlyle also saw ways to beat these Bruins in the Red Wings’ victory. He considers pressure the main element his team has to copy.
“If you look at the way the Detroit Red Wings were able to get their forechecking game going, puck possession game, and they checked through the neutral ice, they didn’t give them a lot space,” Carlyle said. “That’s what you have to do with Boston, you have to be able to forecheck effectively.”
If Toronto is to stay in the playoff race, it’ll likely need a big night from goaltender Jonathan Bernier in his fifth straight start. Getting some production out of the top line of van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel would also be nice, even though Kessel is playing with a bruised right foot.
“I think we’re doing some OK things, but obviously we have to try to contribute more on the scoreboard and on the score sheet,” van Riemsdyk said. “We’re doing some OK things, but we definitely have more to give and better to play.”
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