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Friday, April 1, 2011

Good news for the Bruins: no shootouts in the playoffs and probably no Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not particularly good. Granted, they've improved by leaps and bounds over the last few pathetic seasons of their Original Six existence but they'll once again likely miss the playoffs in 2010-11.

For some unknown reason, Toronto (36-32-10) has given Boston (43-23-11) fits this season and last night's 4-3 shootout win at TD Garden for the Leafs wrapped up a 4-2 season series in their favor.

The Bruins didn't even play that poorly, albeit they gave up two one-goal leads, but it's clear that shootouts are still their biggest weakness. So let's thank the Gods and Gary Bettman that the stupid gimmick is not used in the playoffs.

Joffrey Lupul led Toronto with two goals and an assist while Phil Kessel had two assists in the win. Rookie goaltender James Reimer (19-8-4) continued to play well for the Maple Leafs, stopping 35 shots in the win.

Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist for the Bruins while goaltender Tim Thomas (33-10-9) made 28 saves in the loss that still earned Boston the fraudulent one point.

Luke Schenn gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead at 7:06 of the first period as his shot took a lucky bounce of Tomas Kaberle's skate and past Thomas.

Boston exploded for three goals in the second period. Marchand tied it up at 1 just 2:09 into the frame with his fifth shorthanded tally of the season (21st goal overall). He intercepted the puck at center ice, then skated in, fended off a Toronto player and beat Reimer. One of Marchand's best plays of the season in what has been a superb rookie campaign for Marchmont (inside joke).

David Krejci was the recipient of tic-tac-toe passing, scoring his 13th of the season at 3:08 from Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

Lupul evened it at 2 with a power-play strike at 7:06 from Kessel and Tyler Bozak. It was a nice feed from Kessel and Lupul basically whiffed but it went off his skate (unintentionally).

Andrew Ference gave Boston it's final lead at 3-2 with his 3rd of the season at 8:31. He jumped up on the play and his quick release coupled with a key deflection fooled Reimer. Marchand and Patrice Bergeron assisted.

These two teams clearly don't like each other and their constant battles after the whistle morphed into a heavyweight fight as Lucic took on Jay Rosehill in a lengthy bout in the second period.

Lupul tied it at 3 at 7:53 of the third period from Kessel and Schenn. A poor clearance by Boston put the puck on Lupul's stick and he roofed it over Thomas.

Nobody could find the back of the net in overtime, despite a bogus penalty shot awarded to Toronto, so the teams went to the shootout.

Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley all were unsuccessful for Boston and Nazem Kadri beat Tim Thomas for the winner.

With the point, the Bruins are guaranteed of at worst tying for the Northeast Division title with Montreal.

Boston hosts Atlanta tomorrow afternoon. As I said last weekend after their no-show against the Rangers, the Bruins are horrible in afternoon games but you have to believe they have some extra motivation in this one.

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