TORONTO - Early in last night's 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs, Bruins coach Claude Julien noticed that Toronto counterpart Paul Maurice was trying to keep No. 1 center Mats Sundin away from Marc Savard and Boston's top line.
So Julien improvised, replacing the offensive-minded Phil Kessel on the second line - the second-year NHLer had skated between Marco Sturm and Chuck Kobasew since the Bruins lost Patrice Bergeron Oct. 27 - with Glen Metropolit, who plays a sounder two-way game.
The move paid off in several ways.
Kessel, who hadn't scored since Nov. 1, notched a power-play goal with 47.9 seconds remaining in the second period, ending his seven-game drought. Kessel and third-line mates Peter Schaefer and Brandon Bochenski played a responsible two-way game during even-strength situations.
In turn, Metropolit, Sturm, and Kobasew were on the ice for the team's final two goals. On the other end, they helped hold Sundin to only one shot - which ended up behind Tuukka Rask after skimming off the stick of Aaron Ward and changing direction.
"I put Metro there, and that gave us a second sturdy line," said Julien. "That allowed Phil, Schaefer, and Bochenski to do a good job. I thought they both handled the switch extremely well."
Kobasew had a team-high four shots and 3 points.
And though Alberts was whistled for seven penalty minutes in a 7-4 loss to Montreal last Saturday, the defenseman has spent only 17 minutes in the box this season and is on pace for only 73.4 this season, a far more palatable number for both player and coach.
During a meeting at the start of the year, Julien told Alberts, known for his thunderous checks, that he'd often take himself out of position by looking to clean an opponent's clock. To recover, Alberts would have to resort to hooking or holding.
"I'm not really going out of my way to make big hits this year, and he's all right with that," said Alberts, who landed a game-high six thumps last night. "It's better D to keep myself out of the box. That's one less penalty the team has to kill.
"It's simplifying - not getting too excited like the last couple years. My eyes would light up for a big hit. I'd take myself out of position and get beat. This year, it's being a little more conservative about taking myself out of the play."
Times are a-changin'Like many big North American cities, parts of Toronto are undergoing gentrification, with rough patches being smoothed over.
For Metropolit, raised about 10 minutes away from
"Every time I come back, I'm driving by there and thinking, 'Am I getting that old or what?' It's kind of sad because that's what you knew growing up," said Metropolit. "That's your environment."
A group of his Toronto friends and former schoolmates watched the center during yesterday's morning skate, prompting Metropolit to quip that they came because the session was free.