TORONTO – The Maple Leafs are looking to make life more miserable for Tuukka Rask.
Toronto’s goal is to put some big bodies in front of the six-foot-three Boston goalie who stopped 45 shots in the Bruins’ 5-2 playoff win Monday night.
“To have that (number of shots), you should win a game,” Leafs forward Matt Frattin said before Game 4 on Wednesday night.
“We’ve just got to get bodies (in front of him) and take his eyes away,” he added.
“He’s a good goaltender,” said centre Nazem Kadri. “He’s going to stop everything he can see, just like most goalies in this league. So I think it’s important for us to get some bodies in front of him, especially some of the bigger forwards we have up front do a great job of getting in front of him.
“It seems like that’s the only way we’re going to score or create secondary chances for ourselves.”
Boston leads the best-of-seven series two games to one.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle has urged his players to go to “those tough areas.” That includes driving at the net.
“A lot of the goals that are scored are mostly rebound goals coming off pads,” explained Carlyle. “The new scheme of goaltending is the butterfly and there’s a lot more junk laying around the front of the net area. Off the goalie’s pads, it’s just like making a pass to a player if you can pass it off the goalie’s pads.”
“We haven’t been scoring enough of the dirty goals,” he added.
Toronto has seven goals over the first three games of the series, with only four players having beaten Rask (Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk have two goals apiece while defenceman Jake Gardiner has one).
“So we’ve got some other people that we’re looking for to step up and provide some offence,” Carlyle said pointedly.
That would include Kadri, who has been limited to one assist. He says his goal is keep things simple.
“I think lots of our players like me tend to steer yourself into some difficulty when you trying to do a little too much out there,” he said. “I just try to get to those dirty areas and hopefully bang a couple home tonight.”
Kessel is doing his part. After scoring just three times in 22 games against Boston since being traded by the Bruins, he has two goals in three games.
The Leafs sniper also has 12 goals in his last 13 games, after finishing the regular season with a hot hand.
Boston, meanwhile, wants to get the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin going. They have taken a combined 36 shots on goal but have just one assist between them in the first three games.
“They have been pretty good defensively and they’ve had some chances, they haven’t buried them,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
Rask stopped 92 of 99 shots in the first three games of the series for a .929 save percentage—the same as during the regular season.
But he was ignored in favour of Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks when it came to finalists for the 2012-13 Vezina Trophy awarded to the league’s best goalie.
Julien dismissed Rask being passed over by the league’s GMs in Vezina voting
“He’s had a great year, he’s been good for us,” he said of the 26-year-old Rask, a former Leafs’ draft choice.
“You aim for the big trophy which is more important than the individual one,” he added.
He also noted that Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy.
“To our team, he’s a Norris Trophy winner every year,” said Julien.
Several Toronto players passed on Wednesday’s morning skate. There were 16 players on the ice during the Leafs’ workout at Air Canada Centre, including University of Western Ontario goalie Josh Unice.
Starting goalie James Reimer took the morning off.