Toronto Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins for the first time since the meltdown in Beantown

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It was a meltdown of epic proportions. When Nazem Kadri gave his club a 4-1 lead in the 3rd period of Game 7 in last year’s first round matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, the game, should have been over. But, unless you’re new, you know what happened next. The combination of poor puck management and inexperience on the Leafs end – fused with the fight and hunger of a roster full of Stanley Cup ring bearers – clashed to create a chemical reaction that caused an explosion of excitement, heartbreak, joy, and sickening pain.

The Leafs lay skate to ice in TD Garden tonight for the first time since the legendary collapse. While this evening’s contest doesn’t carry 1/10 the significance of the last time these two teams met, there will be fire and emotion. The Leafs have something to prove against the Bruins. In fact, they will always have something to prove against Boston until they beat them in the playoffs, or win a Stanley Cup, or do something that helps dispel the events of June 13.

Maple Leafs head coach will likely give James Reimer the nod (Bernier played last night). For James, the road to redemption begins in Beantown tonight. Reimer was front and centre in the collapse. He was blamed for poor rebound control and an inability to somehow find a way to make the big save when the game was on the line. The truth is, many working parts failed in the final few minutes of the meltdown.

Reimer spoke with media yesterday about tonight’s game against the Bruins:

“It means something but I don’t think it’s as big a deal as I’m sure people are making it out to be. If we win there (Saturday) it doesn’t reverse what happened last year. If we play them in the first round of the playoffs again, then maybe you can say there’s more of a story there. But it’s a regular-season game.”

Reimer quote courtesy of NHL.com. Read full article here

Reimer has been strong this season, despite being challenged by goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who has also played very well. Stopping pucks has not been a problem for the Leafs exceptional goaltending tandem. Tonight, could be a very different puck game though. There will be tension in the air at the Garden. Expect one of those games where all logic and preconceived notions become irrelevant for a night, as is always the case when two recent playoff combatants renew hostilities.

The Bruins magical comeback in Game 7 propelled them all the way to the Stanley Cup finals – their 2nd appearance in three years. In the end, they ran out of steam against a well-oiled machine from Chicago. But for a stretch, after the triumph of Game 7 Round 1, the B’s went on a tear, playing the best stretch of hockey displayed by any club in the tournament.

Led by captain Zdeno Chara the Bruins went 8-0-1 in Rounds 2 & 3. The power of their greatness was most evident in the Eastern Conference finals where they swept the highly touted Pittsburgh Penguins, allowing only 2 goals in 4 games.

When a severe meltdown occurs, the losing team hopes to learn a lesson, rather than, acquire a complex. How the Leafs respond long-term is yet to be determined.

The Bruins have been there before. In the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs they relinquished a 3-0 series lead for the first time since 1975, and only the third time in NHL history. The following year, the B’s hoisted the Stanley Cup. The Bruins used the disappointment and heartache suffered in 2010 to fuel a championship run the following year. The next few seasons will determine whether the Leafs can make positive of their unfortunate collapse.

The Leafs hope to follow in the footsteps of the Bruins and earn the opportunity to make good on last year’s disappointing playoff exit with another strong season and trip to the Dance next spring.

Jay McClement on the Leafs not worrying about Game 7 too much, courtesy of NHL.com:

“Our goal is not to worry about it, but our goal is to get in to that situation again and handle it better.”

Often, when two clubs play that first regular season game the season after a heated playoff series, there is an abundance of emotion laced with a touch of violence. Tonight’s game in Boston could be one of those games. If Carlyle suits up Colton Orr, Mark Fraser, and Frazer McLaren, the Leafs enforcer bunch will certainly try to stir things up.

This is a statement game for the Buds, who sit atop Boston in the standings, and could benefit from the confidence gained by beating the reigning Eastern Conference champs.

Puck drops at 7:00 ET, in Boston.

Here are some great Twitter accounts worth following for top-notch coverage of the Maple Leafs vs Bruins game day: