Tyler Bozak

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Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for wild card spot (or worse?)

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In the last 48 hours, the Boston Bruins have dropped significant games to two teams their jostling for playoff positioning with in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. In both instances, they were regulation defeats.

Tyler Bozak sealed Boston’s fate on Monday, while Kyle Turris scored the clincher in a 3-2 win tonight.

With that, the Senators have a six-point lead over the Bruins for second in the Atlantic with a game in hand. At this point, the Senators are more fixated on catching the Canadiens for first in the division … while there’s a serious risk for Boston to slip into a wild card spot (or even worse).

Check out Toronto breathing down Boston’s neck for the third spot in the Atlantic:

Bruins: 82 points in 73 games played
Maple Leafs: 81 points in 71 GP

Yeah, this three-game losing streak stings for the Bruins, particularly these last two. Then again, it’s been the story of the season in some ways, as Boston’s lost key points against these two rivals:

Yikes.

Bozak comes up big again as Maple Leafs grab huge win against Bruins

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Technically, a very late Dominic Moore goal keeps Tyler Bozak‘s 2-1 tally from being the game-winner for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Boston Bruins. It essentially was on Monday, though.

The Maple Leafs piled on some empty-netters, so the score ended up being 4-2, a misleading margin of victory as Bozak’s go-ahead goal broke a 1-1 tie with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Earlier in March, Bozak scored a huge goal in Toronto’s win against the Philadelphia Flyers, so a once-maligned forward is coming up clutch for the Buds.

(Judging by the responses to this post on Twitter, Bruins fans believed that the Maple Leafs received the benefit of a few whistles.)

With this regulation win, the Maple Leafs swept their season series against the Bruins.

They’re now in striking distance of passing the Bruins for third in the Atlantic:

Bruins – 82 points in 72 games
Maple Leafs – 81 points in 71 GP

The modest immediate concern is grabbing a playoff spot, and in that regard, this win creates some nice breathing room for Toronto:

Final wild card spot: Maple Leafs – 81 points in 71 GP

Islanders – 78 points in 71 GP
Lightning – 77 points in 71 GP

Every other non-playoff East team: 74 points or fewer.

The Maple Leafs can’t just sit back and relax during their final 11 games of the regular season, mind you, but they might just remember nights like these if their push ends up being successful.

That will be especially true if they can finish ahead of the Bruins.

Bozak’s one-versus-all goal highlights Leafs’ big regulation win vs. Flyers

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There’s something special about Tyler Bozak scoring a huge, highlight reel goal in such a significant game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If you frequented Twitter during some of the franchise’s darker days, Bozak was a polarizing figure, drawing the ire of some stats-minded people who believed that he was placed in too much of an elevated role.

Even if such a thought was agreeable, the bile directed at Bozak was at times jarring, especially since it was a coach’s decision.

While a lot of key figures from that time are gone now, Bozak’s still around, but it’s a happier situation. So there he was on Thursday, scoring a fantastic all-versus-one goal against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Some late drama meant that Bozak’s marker wasn’t the game-winner, but the Leafs held on for a crucial 4-2 win tonight, managing to do so in regulation. You may notice from that Bozak clip that Frederik Andersen began the sequence making some tough saves, holding the pattern of his recent strong play:

With the Islanders in action tonight, it’s possible that this could change, but at the moment the Maple Leafs climbed back into the East’s second wild card spot at 74 standings points. Beating the Flyers without even handing them a charity point also means keeping Philly locked in at 70.

Update: The Lightning and Islanders won their respective games, so the Isles move back ahead of the Leafs.

About a month remains in the 2016-17 season, so there could be more twists and turns. At the moment, this seems like a big win, and Bozak scored a key goal.

As much as this breakthrough campaign is about ahead-of-schedule rookies like Auston Matthews, it must be a treat for Bozak and other guys who spent their formative years languishing on mediocre or even lousy teams.

(And, hey, Nazem Kadri pitched in the empty-netter.)

Leafs activate Marner from IR; Boyle likely to debut

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Brian Boyle is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ big trade deadline acquisition – at least so far? – but a healthy Mitch Marner makes an even bigger “addition” for the Leafs tonight.

With Marner activated from IR, he’s slated to play against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Frederik Gauthier has been sent to the AHL to make room.

Marner’s supposed to be on a line with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak while Brian Boyle anchors a fourth line with Matt Martin and Josh Leivo. That’s at least the gameplan to start things off, but Mike Babcock’s likely to experiment with different fits, especially since Boyle could conceivably move to third-line center if needed.

Injury roundup: Luongo ‘fine’ after cramping up; Marner’s status unknown

The Florida Panthers lost starting goalie Roberto Luongo late in Wednesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Luongo came out of the game after Sharks forward Joe Pavelski scored the game-tying goal with 38 seconds left in the third period.

Backup James Reimer entered the game in Luongo’s place and he stopped both shots he faced before the Panthers won the game in overtime. Reimer played just 2:16, but still ended up getting credit for the win.

After the game, head coach Tom Rowe said Luongo was dealing with some cramps and that he’d be “fine” going forward. So it sounds like the Panthers dodged a bullet there.

The news seems to be a little tougher for the Maple Leafs and rookie forward Mitch Marner, who exited last night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In the second period, Marner tried to separate Boone Jenner from the puck, but he lost an edge and crashed into the boards awkwardly (top). Marner got up right away and skated toward the Leafs bench before heading off to the locker room.

The Leafs ended up losing 5-2 and after the game, head coach Mike Babcock had no update on Marner’s upper-body injury.

Here’s the latest update from the Toronto Sun:

Marner is expected to be evaluated by team doctors on Thursday – an off-day for the team. His status for a pair of weekend games at home to the Senators on Saturday and on the road in Carolina on Sunday isn’t likely to be known until the team returns to practice on Friday.

Obviously the loss of Marner would be huge for the Leafs’ playoff aspirations. Playing most of the season on a line with veterans Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk, the 2015 first-round pick has had a sensational start to his NHL career.

His 48 points and 33 assists through 56 games leads the team and is tops among all NHL rookies. Marner leads Toronto and all NHL rookies in both points (48) and assists (33).