BOSTON — An elbow to the head showed Mikhail Grabovski what playoff hockey is like.
Early in his postseason debut, Toronto’s center took the blow along the boards from Andrew Ference, who was suspended for one game after an NHL hearing yesterday.
Grabovski was leveled by another hard hit in the third period Wednesday night as the teams kept pounding each other the rest of the game — and even afterward.
Players were still on the ice after the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs in the series opener when Boston’s Chris Kelly and Toronto’s Leo Komarov squared off near the penalty box.
“I don’t think we mind it,” Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid said. “It’s the playoffs and the physicality kind of steps up a level. So you’re playing the same team over and over again. You get some good battles going.”
Ference wasn’t penalized at the time for hitting Grabovski but will miss Saturday night’s second game. The defenseman would be eligible to return for Game 3 in Toronto on Monday night.
But Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle knows physical play is part of the sport — especially in the playoffs.
“To me, those are hits in the game,” said Carlyle, who broke into the NHL with the rugged Maple Leafs in the mid-1970s and had 210 penalty minutes with Winnipeg in 1987-88. “Sometimes in the playoffs, you’re going to see physicality. It’ll be front and center. It’s a game that’s made to be physical. You’re allowed to hit people. To judge if it was offside, a bad hit, or a belligerent hit, that’s not for me to judge. That’s for people in the league to make those determinations.”
Meanwhile, that style is likely to continue after the Bruins’ dominant performance in the opener.