Bruins D corps dealt major blow with Andrew Peeke, ‘week to week’ with hand injury

The Bruins’ efforts toward slowing down Auston Matthews and a high-powered Toronto offense took a hit on Tuesday.

Can't Wait To See It For Myself': Andrew Peeke Prepares For First NHL Playoffs - Boston Bruins News, Analysis and More

Jim Montgomery revealed after his team’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena that defenseman Andrew Peeke is “week-to-week” with an injury — taking one of Boston’s sturdiest blueliners out of the equation.

Peeke, who will not travel with his teammates to Toronto, played just 10:20 of ice time in Monday’s 3-2 loss in Game 2 — exiting the contest in the second period when a shot from Tyler Bertuzzi struck him in the hand.

His absence was felt immediately, with John Tavares snapping a puck home on the power play in the second period with Kevin Shattenkirk on the ice for a shorthanded shift.

Peeke, acquired by Boston from Columbus at the trade deadline, logged 4:49 of shorthanded ice time against Toronto in this series — blocking two shots and landing two hits.

“It is a tough blow. He’s been really good for us,” Montgomery said of Peeke.

With Peeke unavailable, the Bruins will need to delve further into their depth chart on defense. Parker Wotherspoon, who adheres to a similar no-frills, steady defensive game, stands as Peeke’s logical replacement.

Rookie Mason Lohrei was also recalled from Providence on Tuesday and could factor into Boston’s reshuffled lineup for Game 3. Montgomery could also slot in Wotherspoon for Peeke, while also starting Lohrei in place of another puck-mover like Shattenkirk or Matt Grzelcyk.

Lohrei’s shot-ready approach and crisp passing could come in handy for a Bruins team that had its transition game stuck in neutral for most of Monday’s loss. 

Still, Lohrei’s own D-zone fortitude and decision-making under duress has been an expected fault in the NHL ranks — which could be further exploited by what has been a frantic Toronto forecheck through two games.

“His poise with the puck, his ability to find middle ice, his ability to make plays in the offensive zone is something that we’re going to possibly look at for next game,” Montgomery said of Lohrei. “Also his willingness to go back for pucks is a strength.”

Another stay-at-home defensive option for the Bruins in this series could be Derek Forbort, who will travel with the team to Toronto. Forbort, once seemingly lost for the season after undergoing surgery following the trade deadline, is “day to day”, per Montgomery, but won’t play in Game 3.

Slowing down Matthews 

Linus Ullmark, Jeremy Swayman Inspire Goalie Hug Trend In Boston -

Regardless of whether it’s Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark in net on Wednesday, Boston will be in for more tough sledding if Auston Matthews repeats his Game 2 performance.

The Maple Leafs’ top-line center was the best player on the TD Garden ice Monday, recording two primary helpers on Max Domi and Tavares’ tallies. He gave Toronto its first lead against Boston all season with 7:54 to go in the third, slipping past Charlie McAvoy and scoring a breakaway tally against Ullmark.

He’s the best goal scorer in the league for a reason. He finds ways,” Brad Marchand said of Matthews. “You look at his goal last night. I mean, that was a nothing play and you get a game-winning goal off of it. Even when you think that you’re tight on him, you’re not tight enough.”

Along with sparking Toronto’s offense, Matthews led all Toronto skaters with 23:24 of ice time in Game 2.

Auston Matthews strikes late as Toronto Maple Leafs even playoff series in  Boston - The Globe and Mail

Not only did he pepper Ullmark with eight shots on goal, Matthews won 16 of his 23 face-offs, doled out a team-high six hits and also corralled a loose puck under goalie Ilya Samsonov in the final minute of play — snuffing out Boston’s last-ditch effort for an equalizer.

Boston’s de-facto shutdown pairing of Brandon Carlo and Hampus Lindholm largely kept Matthews in check during Saturday’s Game 1 win. But Matthews has developed into a player who can impact a game well beyond just finding twine with a blistering wrist shot.

“What I’ve been impressed with him is how tenacious he’s been on pucks, how tenacious he’s been on the forecheck,” Montgomery said of Matthews’ impact. “He’s been relentless with his work ethic and he’s causing — first goal, he wins a battle, rings it off the crossbar, it ends up in our net.

“And the other play, he gets in behind us. Like we can’t let him get in behind us, that’s the most dangerous man on the ice, you have to be tighter with. He’s the most dangerous man on the ice because he’s earned it.”

Punching back 

Bruins beat the weary Maple Leafs 4-1 to move within a point of the NHL-leading Panthers - The San Diego Union-Tribune

The Bruins and Maple Leafs have combined for a whopping 200 hits through the first two games of this series. That pugnacious approach from Toronto doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Marchand.

“Every year we play them at playoff time, they show up, they compete hard, they battle, play physical,” Marchand said. “They definitely have a few more physical guys. They’ve got some grittiness up front and on the back end.

They’re competing hard, but I wouldn’t say it was unexpected. They’re bringing what we thought they would. They’re playing for keeps.”

Even though Boston has landed some welts, the Bruins have not ramped up the pressure against the Leafs’ blueliners — especially in Toronto’s zone.

Without a strong forecheck in place, the Bruins have struggled with extending offensive-zone time and creating opportunities in front of Samosnov. Even though Boston and Toronto have both scored three goals at 5-on-5 play during this series, the Leafs hold a 58-27 edge in scoring chances over 91:34 of 5-on-5 ice time through two games.

“We didn’t like our forechecking in Game 1 either,” Montgomery acknowledged. “I just think everybody’s got to do their job. F1 has got to do his job. F2’s got to run the right route, F3’s got to run the right route so that we can create loose pucks and then have the numbers there to create possession.”

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