Kuraly and Co. helps Bruins send message to Maple Leafs

Matt Kalman
January 12, 2019 - 10:36 pm

Those who dabble in the fine art of line naming have been trying to dub the Bruins’ trio of Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Danton Heinen the College Line.

Of course, the line of Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Noel Acciari could also be tagged with that moniker.

But considering the way Acciari’s line (or is it Kuraly’s line?) is playing, they should be more than willing to permit their younger teammates to be called the College Line because the line of Kuraly-Acciari-Wagner is most definitely a Professional Line.

That line once again exceeded expectations and outplayed their pay grade in a rollicking 3-2 win at Toronto on Saturday, with Kuraly leading the way with one goal and two assists. Wagner and Acciari picked up an assist each and combined for 10 hits. Based on ice time, the line that was once thought of as the fourth line and recently moved up to third-line status was the second line against the Maple Leafs because it combined for more ice time 5-on-5 than the trio of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Backes.

Luckily for the Bruins the increased ice time and the higher stature on the depth chart hasn’t changed the way Kuraly, Acciari and Wagner play. Kuraly protected the puck with a grinder’s desire before he set up Krejci’s goal at 18:21.

After the Bruins fell behind 2-1, Kuraly scored the tying goal at 14:47 of the second period after a heavy forecheck by Acciari and Wagner and a backhand pass from the corner by Wagner. And then Kuraly’s forecheck forced a Travis Dermott turnover before the Boston left wing set up David Pastrnak’s game-winning goal at 19:45 of the second.

Combined Kuraly, Acciari and Wagner make a little more than $3 million. That type of bang for the Bruins’ buck is why they’re just two points back of Toronto for second place in the Atlantic Division despite all the injuries they’ve faced and why general manager Don Sweeney is able to take his time shopping for a trade for top-six forward help.

Mighty McAvoy return

After missing seven games with an infected cut on his foot defenseman Charlie McAvoy returned to the lineup and looked like he hadn’t lost a step. He skated for 18:28 of ice time, mostly against the line of John Tavares centering Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman. Marner got the only point (a goal) out of that trio, and it came on the power play.

Match game

In an effort to avoid lopsided mismatches on the road at 5-on-5, coach Bruce Cassidy went with five-man units that stuck together most of the night. Chara and McAvoy were with Patrice Bergeron’s line, which Toronto coach Mike Babcock matched up against Tavares’s line. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo got to play with Krejci’s line against Auston Matthews’ trio with Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen. Matthews’ line got a 5-on-5 goal, but during a rare shift against Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller (and on a bizarre bounce through Tuukka Rask’s legs). Otherwise Cassidy’s strategy worked flawlessly because he was able to just accept the matchups Babcock wanted without putting the Bruins into scramble mode.

Tuukka’s time

You can’t overlook what Rask did between the pipes with 30 saves on 32 shots, including a couple breakaways during a second-period Boston power play. Win No. 251 puts him one away from Tiny Thompson’s all-time Bruins career record. And after beating the team that drafted him Saturday, Rask might get to go for the record-tying win Monday against the Bruins’ biggest rival and their old coach Claude Julien when Montreal comes to Boston.

Related: Don Sweeney: No ‘hard and fast rule’ about trading Bruins’ first-rounder