Given the nature of Game 2, it’s a wonder the Bruins left as healthy as they did.
Nazem Kadri could have the book thrown at him in his meeting on Monday with the league following his game misconduct for crosschecking Jake DeBrusk up high. DeBrusk finished the game, and while he’s day-to-day for Game 3, it could have been much worse.
“It’s all kind of a blur, to be honest,” said DeBrusk. “I think it was, from what I remember, it was high. I felt it in my face.”
Connor Clifton also took a hit from Kadri and left the game, while Torey Krug was crushed by Jake Muzzin and is additionally day-to-day.
That’s a lot to deal with for a team already missing three regulars due to injury, but it could have been worse.
Given DeBrusk won’t be having a call with the NHL for his collision with Kadri earlier in the game, they’re also lucky things didn’t get more out of hand.
“I’m not a dirty player,” DeBrusk said of his apparent knee-on-knee run-in with Kadri. “I don’t think I intended to knee-on-knee him.”
Zdeno Chara had a clear view of Kadri’s crosscheck, and he got involved right away, but preached the importance of keeping composure, something the Bruins did relatively well given Kadri was running around creating havoc.
“Well there’s a lot that goes through my head,” said Chara. “But it’s just, you know, again you’ve got to kind of realize that there are consequences. And as much as you want to be there and take care of things, but at the same time you’ve just got to be smart about it. Because if you end up doing something that’s crossing the line, you’re going to be in the same group with the guy who initiated it. You’ve got to hold your composure and worry about the results.”
Saturday night almost got out of hand. The Bruins physicality was up tenfold from Game 1, hitting the Leafs 40-plus times compared to the 31 on Thursday. That doesn’t tell the whole story, but anyone watching could see the Bruins put an emphasis on playing a heavier game.
Which, makes sense; that’s when they’re at their best.
“Growing up watching playoff hockey, I think that’s one of the things that you notice is how physical it is, guys are playing hard,” said Charlie McAvoy. “Everyone’s life is on the line and so we have guys that like to play that kind of style so we can do that and we just need to make sure that we do.”
As poised as the Leafs were, trailing in enemy territory in Game 1, they lost all of that when they couldn’t respond to the brand of hockey the Bruins played. Kadri, who was suspended three games last postseason for a hit on then-Bruin Tommy Wingels, had the worst of his game brought out.
“It’s tough in-game, both teams want to play hard,” said Matt Grzelcyk. “Play that playoff-style hockey. You do your best not to cross the line, but situations happen. Just try to control your emotions the best you can.”
Retaliation not only gets penalized equally as an instigating play, which would leave the Bruins even more shorthanded, but it’s dangerous, and they’re already lucky no one was hurt worse on Saturday night.
“It was a physical game,” said Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “The referees let a lot of stuff go obviously, but in the end you can’t let that get in the way of doing what you’re doing. Playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs isn’t supposed to be easy and it’s worth it, and we just have to find another level and dig in.”
Playoff hockey has a more intense aura — as it should, with more on the line — but it’s hardly an excuse for targeting players or making a run at them.
Kadri crossed the line in Game 2, but it’s up to the Bruins to keep to their game without lowering themselves to Kadri’s level.