Leafs bomb in Boston

Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara knocks down Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak at TD Garden in Boston,...

Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara knocks down Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak at TD Garden in Boston, Mass., Oct. 20, 2011. (Elsa/Getty Images/AFP)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 AM ET

BOSTON - The Maple Leafs have injuries up front, but a real pain is developing in the back end.

Forgetting for a moment it took them six games to absorb their first regulation loss, 6-2 to the Stanley Cup champion Bruins who were close to must-win mode. The scoring surge from Phil Kessel has covered up some blue line blight. Confidence is becoming an issue with some of their big men who were counted on to support the goaltending and help out those nights when the top six forwards hit a wall.The Maple Leafs have injuries up front, but a real pain is developing in the back end.

Forget for a moment it took six games to absorb their first regulation loss, 6-2 to the Stanley Cup champion Bruins who were nearing must-win territory after a slow start. The scoring surge from Phil Kessel has covered up some blueline blight and confidence is becoming an issue with some of their big men, counted upon to support the goaltending and help out those nights when the top six forwards hit a wall.

That happened Thursday at TD Garden where the

Kessel Show hit a major pothole in its first road test and Toronto formed a conga line to the penalty box.

Cody Franson was a minus three and was on for one of Boston’s two power-play goals. Despite the Leafs’ best efforts to build up Mike Komisarek, there was justification to put him in the pressbox for the first time since he joined the Leafs on a big-ticket contract in 2009.

“Komo has struggled the past couple of games and we talked to him aboout getting a little rest or perspective,” coach Ron Wilson said. “And he’d be back in the lineup in Montreal (Saturday). The positive by far for me was Luke Schenn. Forget the (two assists) he was a force in our zone. Maybe Luke saw Komo out and decided to pick up his play.”

Schenn hasn’t taken the criticism of his play or his reduction in ice time very well in light of the big contract he signed in the off-season, but he was down to 12 minutes on Wednesday against Winnipeg bouncing back with nearly 20 against the Bruins. He and Jake Gardiner managed to be plus two amid the Bruins’ carnage with Gardiner recording his first NHL point.

“Everyone was making a big deal about the ice time, but I wasn’t too worried,” Schenn insisted. “People were getting worked up and obviously it wasn’t ideal and the minutes showed it. But I stayed positive about it. Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do, but for me, I got to play back-to back nights and not think about it.”

Franson and Gardiner have done time in the stands too and if Komisarek is coming back Saturday, someone’s nose will be out of joint again.

Franson has been rattled since the Leafs made him an opening night scratch in an effort to grade the rookie Gardiner, which is still ongoing.

While Toronto’s defence was looking for direction, Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference led the way with seven combined points for Boston’s blueline, five in the first period when the champs finally took flight at home after laying eggs much of this October homestand. The victim was Jonas Gustavsson, who faced 43 shots, while Franson lost a slot battle with Chris Kelly on Boston’s back-breaker even-strength third goal with 2:11 to go in the period. Late in the game, Milan Lucic finished off a bold rush that overwhelmed both Franson and Dion Phaneuf.

Up front, league top gun Kessel’s five-game points’ streak came to an end, with nemesis Tyler Seguin getting a goal and two helpers. That was impetus for another round of ‘Thank You Kessel’ crowd chants about the trade. Kessel refused to meet the media afterwards.

The Leafs were without Colby Armstrong (sprained ankle), Clarke MacArthur (lower body) and might be without centre Tyler Bozak, who was in the Bruins’ clinic with a noticeable limp after the game. Nazem Kadri was called up and the enforcer duo of Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill got into the same game. Kadri had a nice assist on David Steckel’s opening goal, the night’s highlight for the Leafs.

After Orr’s first fight in almost a year, with a very willing Shawn Thornton, Kadri saw quality ice on a line with Bozak and Mike Brown. Kadri was so excited to be making his season debut after a knee injury that he went overboard with a middle period hit deemed an illegal check to the head.

But Toronto’s chances of extending its longest opening month points’ streak since 1993-94 weren’t helped by the match-up in goal, tilted decidedly in Boston’s favour. Tim Thomas was out for redemption and Gustavsson was making his first NHL start since January on a rare night off for James Reimer.

Kelly was one of many Bruins glad to see some division games finally coming his team’s way, figuring it would be the stimulus that the 2-4 team needed. After Toronto’s visit, five more Northeast games are on tap for the Bruins into early November.

“The last thing you want to do is be playing Montreal and Toronto in March four times,” Kelly said. “So it’s good to get back in the division now. These guys (Leafs) are playing really well and it’s a great test for us.”

That happened Thursday at TD Garden where the Kessel Kruise hit a pothole in its first road test and Toronto forwards formed a conga line to the penalty box.

Despite the Leafs’ best efforts to build up Mike Komisarek, there was justification to put him in the pressbox for the first time since he joined the Leafs on a big-ticket contract in 2009. It might also be a motivational ploy on coach Ron Wilson’s part to get Komisarek wired for a game back on his old Montreal turf Saturday.

Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner have done time in the stands and it seemed Luke Schenn might be spending an evening there, before a two-assist night with some hits. Schenn did get back up to 12 minutes of ice on Wednesday and exceeded that Thursday. But Toronto’s game went south at North Station long before that.

Franson has been rattled since the Leafs made him an opening night scratch in an effort to grade the rookie Gardiner, which is still ongoing. On this night, Franson took Komisarek’s role as Gardiner’s stay-at-home partner. Gardiner’s first NHL point came late in the third.

While Toronto’s defence was looking for direction, Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference combined for five points in the first period, figuring in two of the three Boston power-play goals. Chara leaned into a heavy shot that might have nicked a defenceman and beat Jonas Gustavsson, while Franson lost a slot battle with Chris Kelly on Boston’s back-breaker even-strength third goal with 2:11 to go in the period. Late in the game, Milan Lucic finished off a bold rush that overwhelmed Franson and Dion Phaneuf.

Up front, league top gun Kessel’s five-game points’ streak came to an end, with nemesis Tyler Seguin getting a career-high goal and two helpers and impetus for another round of ‘Thank You Kessel’ chants about the trade.

The Leafs were without Colby Armstrong (sprained ankle) and Clarke MacArthur (lower body), which saw Nazem Kadri called up and the enforcer duo of Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill get into the same game. But after Orr’s first fight in almost a year, with a very willing Shawn Thornton, Kadri started getting quality ice on a line with Tyler Bozak and Mike Brown. Kadri was so excited to be making his season debut after a knee injury that he went overboard with a middle period hit deemed an illegal check to the head.

David Steckel had clearly been shocked on Wednesday when Wilson kept him out to centre the Kessel line after he performed his appointed task of winning the draw. On Thursday, he must have been agog to take the opening faceoff with Kessel (wearing Komisarek’s ‘A’) and Joffrey Lupul. In the midst of some line juggling, Steckel wired his first goal as a Leaf with assists to Bozak and Schenn.

But Toronto’s chances of extending its longest opening month points’ streak since 1993-94 weren’t helped by the match-up in goal tilted decidedly in Boston’s favour. Tim Thomas was out for redemption and Gustavsson was making his first NHL start since January in a rare night off for James Reimer. Gustavsson started well with eight mostly tough saves, but left a fat rebound for Nathan Horton on a power play that allowed Boston to erase the Steckel goal. He buckled under 43 shots and all the power plays.

Thomas was only tested in spurts, but went into a sprawl to rob Mikhail Grabovski on a penalty box breakaway with his mitt. Grabovski did get a goal late.

Kelly was one of many Bruins glad to see some division games finally coming his team’s way, figuring it would be the stimulus that the 2-4 team needed. After Toronto’s visit, five more Northeast games are on tap for the Bruins into early November.

“The last thing you want to do is be playing Montreal and Toronto in March four times,” Kelly said. “So it’s good to get back in the division now. These guys (Leafs) are playing really well and it’s a great test for us.”


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