BOSTON — Mitch Marner always has had a bit of a beat on the Bruins. And that much did not change when the Toronto Maple Leafs came into Boston for Game 1 on Thursday night.
The 21-year-old forward has 18 points in 12 career games against the Bruins in the regular season, and put up two goals and nine assists in the team’s first-round matchup in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He got a good jump on those numbers in Game 1 this year, potting two goals in the Leafs’ 4-1 win.
In eight career playoff games against Boston, Marner has 11 points, and seven of those have come at TD Garden.
And while a lot of that simply comes down to execution, figuring out a better plan for Marner should sit high on the list of things the Bruins need to patch up before Game 2 on Saturday, as Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy noted after Thursday’s loss.
“He’s an elite player in the league at a young age. He’s always played well against us, played hard against us,” Cassidy said. “We’ve tried to … listen, it’s the old … years ago I remember (Wayne) Gretzky … ‘why doesn’t anyone hit that guy?’ Well, it’s not that easy, right? I think it become containment issues.
“Play him hard, play him honest one-on-one, put him where you want to go,” Cassidy added. “Obviously, if you can be physical against him, do it, but he competed to score the first goal, getting to the net. We were a little late in our coverage. I think we gifted him a little bit on the shorty, but good for him for being smart and jumping us. That’s on us.
“He’s a good player, and he’s played well against us and obviously we need to find an answer to him.”
Marner has been a dangerous weapon against the Bruins for the entirety of his short, but noteworthy career. And putting him on a line with John Tavares only has upped that potency.
The Marner-Tavares-Zach Hyman trio far out-chanced their top line counterparts in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in even-strength situations. And if that continues, it’s not going to be an enjoyable series for the Bruins.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images