After he missed the last two games of the regular season, nursing an upper-body injury, nothing was going to keep Tyler Bozak, the center of Toronto’s top line, from taking the ice at TD Garden Wednesday night.
“We’ve worked hard as a group and as a team in here, and there’d be nothing worse than having to sit back and watch the most important time of the year,’’ Bozak said following the Maple Leafs’ morning skate.
“I’m excited that I healed up quicker and I’m just excited to get this under way. It’s going to be a fun experience.’’
Bozak, who was injured last Wednesday at Tampa Bay, was reunited with linemates Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, and recorded his first career playoff point with an assist on van Riemsdyk’s goal at 1:54 of the first period, the Leafs’ only score in a 4-1 loss in Game 1 against the Bruins.
“He does a little bit of everything for us with the penalty kill, power play, five on five, and taking big draws,’’ van Riemsdyk said of Bozak before the game. “So he’s definitely a guy whose impact is missed when he’s not in the lineup.’’
One area Bozak’s absence was felt was the faceoff circle, where he entered with a team-leading 52.6 winning on draws, and won 12 of 21 Wednesday night. Evidently, the work he put in during Wednesday morning’s pregame skate reaped some benefit.
“I took some faceoffs today and it felt fine,’’ Bozak said. “So I think the true test will be when I get out there and get into game mode.’’
When he made his first playoff appearance vs. the Bruins three years ago, van Riemsdyk made history with the Flyers, who rallied from three games down to beat the Bruins, who blew a three-goal lead in Game 7.
“I think we played them again the next year and we got swept,’’ said van Riemsdyk, noting how the Bruins gained their vengeance during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2011. “But, yeah, obviously I’ve played a few playoff games in this building.
“Even in college [at the University of New Hampshire], played a couple of [Hockey East] conference tournaments here, so I love coming and playing in this rink in Boston.’’
Van Riemsdyk, whose goal was his 12th career in the playoffs, entered this series tied with Joffrey Lupul for the most playoff experience (39 games) among Maple Leafs.
Asked what it meant to make history with the Flyers, van Riemsdyk said, “You know, I don’t think you fully appreciate it at the time. But maybe when I’m done playing, I’ll look back and think, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’
“The odds are stacked against you when you put yourself in that kind of hole, but that was a pretty special comeback we had. It’s something when I’m done playing I’ll realize how special it was.’’
The Flyers went on to reach the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Blackhawks.
The Maple Leafs listed 10 players on their 25-man roster who made their playoff debuts Wednesday night, including goalie James Reimer, who surrendered four consecutive goals, two each in the first and second periods. “Since I’ve been with the team, we’ve added a lot of new faces, and we were projected to finish last in the East at the start of the year,’’ Bozak said. “But we’ve brought in a lot of good players and we’ve done a lot of good things. So we’re excited to get this under way. It’s my first playoff experience and I know it is for quite a few guys in here, so it’s going to be an exciting time.’’ . . . Joe Colborne, Boston’s No. 1 pick (18th overall) in the 2008 draft, who was traded to Toronto in 2011 for Tomas Kaberle, was a healthy scratch along with Ryan O’Byrne, Matt Frattin, Ryan Hamilton, and Jake Gardiner . . . Toronto came in with an 8-5 record in playoff series vs. the Bruins. Boston, however, won the last series against the Leafs, in 1974. The last time Toronto won a playoff series against Boston was the 1959 semifinals.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.