If the Toronto Maple Leafs are to fare well in their two-game test against the Boston Bruins, then sticking to their own game and not worrying about how the Bruins play is the key.
At least that was the message from the coaching staff to the players, since all of them were using it as a mantra after the game-day skate.,
“We’re going to [depend]on our own game,” Leaf centre Tim Connolly said after Wednesday’s game-day skate at the Air Canada Centre. The home-and-home series concludes Saturday in Boston.
Connolly wasn’t interested in talking about the implications of the two games when it comes to assessing the Leafs’ worth as an NHL playoff contender.
“I’m just focused on the game tonight,” he said. “Getting the two points is really all that’s on my mind.”
Leafs head coach Ron Wilson allowed that with 11 wins in their last 12 games and no regulation-time losses since Oct. 29, the defending Stanley Cup champions have to be considered the best team in the league right now.
“The Bruins are not just [defenceman]Zdeno Chara,” he said. “They’re deep, they’re fast and right now they’re the best team in the league.”
What Wilson is looking for from his team is a quick start in its own building.
“Get off to a good start, depend on each other and we’ve got to play our game,” he said of the keys to a win. “We’ve got to have a good first period, start our fore-checking game and play the way we are capable of playing against any team in the league.”
There are two lineup questions for the Leafs – centre Dave Steckel and defenceman Carl Gunnarsson, who both have hand injuries. Wilson said both were game-time decisions and refused to say who would come out of the lineup if either one was ready to go.
Rookie centre Joe Colborne, who came from the Bruins in the Tomas Kaberle trade, is a candidate to sit if Steckel plays but it looks like only Gunnarsson will make it back to the lineup. At this point it does not look like Wilson will deny Colborne his first chance to play against the team that drafted him.
Colborne and linemates Joey Crabb and Matt Frattin are expected to play a major role in scoring but they are expected to use their size to knock some bodies around in the Bruins’ zone.
“When all three of us get on the fore-check we’re a formidable line,” Colborne said. “It’s going to be a challenge. The faceoffs will be hard because I’ve never really played against any of [the Bruin centres]”