The rivalry of the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs took a backseat to the one Boston had with the Montreal Canadiens for years. For almost all of the 1900s, Boston and Montreal clashed to make one of the greatest rivalries in sports history. However, that rivalry has almost appeared to settle and the hatred is almost entirely gone. With the absence of fierce inter-division competition, the Bruins are finding the Leafs to be the team they want to beat most.
Toronto Maple Leafs Rivalry Re-Ignited In Boston
Eddie Shore hits Ace Bailey
In 1933, the Bruins and Leafs squared off. The game was well underway when Boston’s Eddie Shore hit Toronto’s Ace Bailey from behind into the boards. Bailey suffered a fractured skull and his career ended.
Years later, Bailey became the first player to have his number retired by an NHL team. The number six now hangs from the rafters to honour his play through his short career.
The rivalry went rather quiet for over thirty years, but on April 2, 1969, the hatred was restored when Pat Quinn of the Leafs elbowed Boston’s star defenseman Bobby Orr, laying him flat on the ice. The hit sparked a bench-clearing brawl that even involved Boston’s fans, who reached over the short glass to jab at Maple Leafs players.
2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston and Toronto squared off. Boston, the fourth-seeded team, took a 3-1 series lead against the struggling fifth seed Maple Leafs. Feeling the sense of urgency, the Leafs pulled off the improbable and tied the series at three games each.
Toronto stunned the Boston crowd in Game 7 with a 4-1 lead with just over half a period to play. However, Bruins and Leafs fans alike know what happened next. Nathan Horton cut the lead to two goals, Milan Lucic stuffed in a rebound to make it 4-3, then Patrice Bergeron blasted one from the point with 50.2 seconds left to send the game to overtime. The final blow to the Leafs came just 6:05 into sudden death when Bergeron scored again to send Boston onto the next round.
Both Teams Have Upgraded Since
While that Game 7 lingers in the heads of Bruins fans, the reality is that it was five years ago and both teams have since made moves that have rebranded their identity. Toronto drafted and acquired some big-time players and are now looking to hold a playoff spot for the second straight year. Frederik Andersen now occupies the net, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner provide speed and skill, and Patrick Marleau offers leadership – a vital component to a team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs.
The Bruins have made changes too. They finally found a suitable backup in Anton Khudobin and can now get Tuukka Rask some much-needed days of rest. They added David Backes in 2016 – a move that gave them a playoff veteran. Most importantly, the Bruins hired Bruce Cassidy who has allowed for younger players to stay in the lineup for an adequate amount of time in order to improve their development. This change means that their players in the minor league can get more experience and can help in the NHL down the line. Under Claude Julien, these players would only get called up if a starter got injured and then sent down when the player was healthy.
The Maple Leafs have completely dominated the Bruins over the last couple of years. The last time the Bruins beat the Leafs was March 26, 2016. Since that day, the Leafs have won seven consecutive games, including a season sweep last year.
The Bruins will face the Leafs on Saturday in search for their first win against them this season. Given the current standings, we may be watching a preview of the Eastern Conference first round this coming postseason.
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