There will be no shortage of storylines in this one, but Kessel and Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin are sure to dominate the spotlight. Kessel struggled mightily against his old club last year, but he comes in red-hot this year and would love nothing better than to quiet the Garden crowd with a couple of goals in this one.
Seguin will be forever linked to Kessel as the Bruins selected him this June with the first of the draft picks acquired from the Leafs in exchange for Kessel. Add in the fact that Seguin grew up in suburban Toronto rooting for the Leafs and this is sure to be an emotional game for the youngster.
It’s also sure to be a physical contest, as both teams thrive on body contact and don’t shy away from the rough stuff.
“They’ve got a big D corps back there,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “They’re all physical. … As someone who kind of likes the physical battles, you know they’re not going to shy away from it so we’re going to be crashing into each other all game. That’s what makes it fun. It’s a great contact sport and you guys all know I’m looking forward to that.”
Boston Bruins (4-2-0, 8 points) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-2-1, 11 points)
Oct. 28, 7 p.m. (NESN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
This is the first of six meetings this season between the Original Six rivals. The Bruins went 4-1-1 against the Leafs last year and lead the all-time series 276-253-98-6.
Tim Thomas is off to a spectacular start this season with a 4-0-0 record, 0.75 GAA and .978 save percentage, and he’s had plenty of success against the Leafs, going 14-4-3 with a 2.98 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Tuukka Rask hasn’t gotten off to as strong a start with an 0-2-0 record, 3.54 GAA and .894 save percentage, but has been even better against Toronto with a 4-1-0 record, 1.87 GAA and .943 save percentage.
For the Leafs, Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 4-1-1 with a 2.30 GAA and a .908 save percentage this year, but is 1-2-1 with a 3.59 GAA and a .871 save percentage against the Bruins. Jonas Gustavsson is 2-0-1 with a 1.60 GAA and a .940 save percentage against Boston, and 1-1-0 with a 2.52 GAA and a .912 save percentage this season.
The Leafs have plenty of familiar faces on the roster. Kessel is the biggest name, but the Bruins also let enforcer Colton Orr get away when he was waived in 2005 after playing just 21 games in Boston, while Kris Versteeg never even made it up to the big club. He was traded to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski in 2007, and went on to post two 20-goal seasons and win a Cup with the Blackhawks before being traded to Toronto this summer. For the Bruins, Rask and Shawn Thornton were both originally drafted by Toronto, while Seguin was selected with the second overall pick originally owned by the Leafs.
The Leafs already have eight fighting majors in eight games this year, led by Mike Brown‘s four and Orr’s three, while Versteeg has the other one. The Bruins are also averaging a fight a game this year, with six fighting majors in as many games. Lucic and Campbell each have two, with Thornton and Mark Stuart each contributing one. Last year, the six games between the division rivals produced five fights, all of which took place in the three games in Boston. There is a history of bad blood between the clubs and several personal rivalries. Lucic and Komisarek had a long-running feud when Komisarek played for Montreal, and Lucic also had his nose broken by Orr last year, while Brown might still hold a grudge for the extra shots Lucic delivered to him when he was already on the ice in their bout two years ago when Brown was with Anaheim.
The Bruins will be looking to bounce back from Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers that ended Boston’s four-game winning streak. The Leafs, who finished with the second-worst record in the league last year to enable the Bruins to draft Seguin, have been a much-improved team so far this year. They started the season 4-0-0 before hitting a rough patch, going 0-2-1 before beating Florida on Tuesday.
“I think they’re definitely on the right track,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Now we’re facing a team that’s coming in with lots of confidence, lots of speed and lots of energy.”
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