There was plenty of time to ponder that question Monday night at the Garden as the Bruins ended any drama early in their final meeting of the season with Toronto. Boston scored twice in the first 5:40 of the game and led 4-0 by the end of the opening period en route to an 8-0 rout.
The Bruins completed their first season sweep of the Leafs since 1991-92 with the win. They only played Toronto three times that season. This year, they clashed six times, and the Bruins outscored the Leafs 36-10 altogether.
Despite that history, Bruins coach Claude Julien never expected to roll to a win this easily, especially with the Leafs coming in having won two straight and the Bruins less than a week removed from back-to-back 6-1 and 6-2 losses in Tampa Bay and Florida.
"I don't think we expected the game to go that way, I guess, the lopsided win," Julien said. "But I liked the way our team played. I really thought, you know, [the Leafs] have been playing well lately, so this was an off night for them, obviously. I think the fact that we jumped on them early and got that big lead probably did the same thing it did to us on that last road trip. It just kind of pushes you right out of the game, and it's hard to get back in. But what we tried to do was just stay focused for 60 minutes and really continue to do the good things and not let the score dictate our game. And we did that."
The Bruins built off Saturday's 3-2 shootout win over Philadelphia and dominated Toronto from the opening faceoff. They had three goals on the board before the Leafs even managed their first shot on Tim Thomas more than midway through the opening period. At the end of two periods, the Bruins had seven goals. The Leafs had seven shots.
"I'm not sure," forward Chris Kelly said in trying to explain the Bruins' domination of Toronto. "Sometimes you just have a bit of luck on your side and you match up well against a team. I know earlier in the year we had a couple lopsided games, but by no means was the score any indication of how the games were. Tonight I thought we controlled the game for the most part."
Kelly's line in particular was responsible for much of that. He scored the first goal himself 2:25 into the first and later added an assist, while linemates Benoit Pouliot added two goals and an assist and Brian Rolston matched a career high with four points on a goal and three assists.
"I think we deserved a game like that because we went through a stretch there it seemed everything went wrong," Rolston said. "And, I think a big key for us was the game against Philly. We came back and won that game, and when you get wins, you get more confidence as a team. I thought we came out good tonight, and you can just build on that as you go."
The confidence was soaring through the entire lineup. Fourteen different players collected points for the Bruins, while Thomas recorded his first shutout since Dec. 17. He needed to make just 13 saves to do it, as the Bruins found a way to get him some needed rest despite having him appear in his 13th straight game.
"I was getting rest out there, wasn't I?" Thomas joked.
There was plenty to smile about after this one. The Bruins managed to win back-to-back games for just the second time since early January. They extended their lead on Ottawa for first place in the Northeast Division to three points. And they took a big step toward putting their dismal stretch of recent play behind them with their second consecutive strong 60-minute effort.
"You can never predict a 7, 8-0 game," said center Gregory Campbell, who chipped in a goal and a fight in the opening period. "I think what's a positive thing is we competed, not only for 20 and for 40 minutes, but for 60 minutes. We limited their scoring chances and played well defensively. It's one thing to score eight goals, but it's another to really be stingy defensively and ultimately play to our strengths."
It's also one thing to beat a team that you've dominated all season. It's another to sustain that level of play on a consistent basis against all opponents. The Bruins will get a chance to show they can do that when they open a West Coast swing through California on Thursday in San Jose.
"I hope it's a push in the right direction," Kelly said. "We wanted to come home after that trip that wasn't our style of hockey and focus on one game at a time. Now we just need to focus on the next one. These two are behind us. People are going to look how we respond to our next one."
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