Bruce Cassidy feels the need to tinker with a winning lineup.
Just because his Boston Bruins tied the series with Game 4’s 5-3 victory in Toronto doesn’t mean the coach is satisfied.
The Maple Leafs hard-charging fourth line of Trevor Moore, Frederik Gauthier and Tyler Ennis completely dominated the Bruins’ bottom unit, registering a ridiculous even-strength Corsi of 89 per cent.
Enter new fourth-line centre Sean Kuraly, whom Cassidy dubs “a one-man cycle.”
The 26-year-old will make his series debut Friday after being sidelined since March 21 as he recovered from a fractured right hand.
“There will definitely be energy. That’s what my job is and that’s expected of me, to bring energy, so luckily I’ve got a little bit of that,” Kuraly says.
Adds linemate Chris Wagner: “He’s probably one of the faster guys on our team, if not the fastest.”
Kuraly posted career-highs in goals (eight) and points (21) this season and should be a significant upgrade over the struggling Joakim Nordstrom.
“He’s certainly a hard guy to get the puck from when he’s on,” Cassidy says. “A bit undervalued on paper, can get to loose pucks in our end and get it out of our zone. That’s what we missed the other night.”
Babcock calls Drake curse crazy talk
Superstitious Toronto fans are worried that Drake showing up to Scotiabank Arena in a No. 6 Maple Leafs sweater to watch the home team lose Wednesday has cast a spell upon their squad.
“That’s probably about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I’ve heard lot of things since I’ve come here, but that’s one of the craziest things,” Mike Babcock said.
“The game is played on the ice, by us. There’s no curse whatsoever. We’re in a series, and it’s a good series, and we’re excited to be in it and excited to have the opportunity. Anytime anybody wants to come and support us, we’re all in.”
Even if that anybody is a proven jinx.
Leafs pore over penalty kill
The Bruins went two-for-two on their power play Wednesday and have converted on five of their 11 man-advantages in the series. Not a good look.
“It’s a spread power play. It’s easy to sort out, we didn’t sort it out on the top and they ended up outnumbering us on the bottom and, in the end, we gave up an easy one,” Babcock explained.
Zach Hyman says the breakdowns have been uncharacteristic and believes it’s the Leafs’ mistakes, not the Bruins’ expertise, that are the problem.
“We have a lot more to prove. I don’t think we’ve been as bad as the numbers show,” Hyman said. “We’ve got to get back to playing our way and be confident out there and go after them.”
Toronto devoted extra time practising its penalty kill Friday morning, and assistant coach D.J. Smith will hold another PK meeting with his units at TD Garden right before warm-ups tonight.
“Smitty’s done a good job of letting us know what they’re looking for and how we’re supposed to counteract it,” Connor Brown said. “Last game, how they scored their goals, it’s nothing we hadn’t seen before. So it’s up to us to execute.”
Hyman fine after Marchand hit
There was a collective gasp from Leaf Nation when Hyman missed a shift and appeared in great pain after initiating a hit on Brad Marchand late in Game 4, but the top-line winger assured he’s ready to go, that it was just a stinger.
“It was scary for a second there, but I got up and everything was where it should’ve been. I’m happy that I’m good to go for today,” Hyman said.
Babcock calls Hyman “a tough kid” and reminded that pushing through pain is what springtime hockey is all about.
Dad strength activated
Leafs shutdown D-man Jake Muzzin has joined Toronto’s rapidly swelling Dad Club.
Muzzin’s wife, Courtney, scheduled an induction Thursday in Toronto, and the couple welcomed a healthy baby girl, their first child, to the world.
“It’s been a crazy 24 hours,” said Muzzin, excited for his game-day nap.
Babcock approves of Red Wings hire
Overseeing the final season of Steve Yzerman’s playing career and then working four more years with him as an executive, Babcock thinks the Wings did well to hire the icon as their new GM, under senior VP Ken Holland.
“They’re good friends; they’ll work well together,” Babcock said.
“Stevie is a fan favourite in Detroit like no other. I remember one night in overtime or the shootout, he jumped over the boards, the place started to shake. When you’ve done what a guy like him has done for a franchise, you’ve earned the right for people to feel like that about you, and he’ll do a great job.”
Yzerman to Detroit, Joel Quenneville to Florida — the Atlantic Division is getting stacked with championship hockey minds.
“That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Don’t you want to be in the best and beat the best?” Babcock said.
“That’s what elite sports is supposed to be about. It’s not supposed to be about finding someone soft to play against.”