BOSTON - Even at this early stage of the playoffs, the Bruins and Leafs could scare small children with their battered faces.
Ahead of Game 5 Friday night, Boston's Chris Kelly looked like someone had taken a box-cutter to his right cheek (it was actually Nazem Kadri's stick). Fellow Bruins forward Milan Lucic's right eye was framed by a swollen shiner thanks to a Leafs shot. Daniel Paille's nose had seen better days.
Toronto defenceman Carl Gunnarsson looked like an angry cat had a go at his forearm.
The official hit count over the first four games of the Toronto-Boston series is 365, with the Leafs holding a 200-165 edge. Bruins coach Claude Julien and tough guy Shawn Thornton have both questioned whether the number in Toronto has been inflated somewhat, but no one is disagreeing that bodies have been flying in the series.
"It's been physical, there's no doubt about it," said Julien, who called it a hard but clean series.
"As much as there's a serious competition here, there's also mutual respect between the two teams," he added.
Both clubs are working hard, something Toronto coach Randy Carlyle says has to be a cornerstone.
"Our expectations are don't thinking you're doing us a favour by coming in and working," said Carlyle. "That's your job."
Players have literally put their body on the line, with Boston holding a three games to one lead going into Friday night.
Wednesday's painful 4-3 OT loss cost the Leafs the services of tough defenceman Mark Fraser, who needed facial surgery after taking a puck to the face.
Game 4 also left a mark on other Bruins. Defenceman Johnny Boychuk limped off the ice after taking a shot on the ankle. Forward Nathan Horton was hit hard by Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf on the play that led to Wednesday's OT decider.
Veteran Bruins defenceman Wade Redden was scratched from Game 5 with an undisclosed injury.
The Bruins look to close out the series as quickly as possible. It has not always been that way.
In 2011, when they won the Cup, they were beaten in possible Game 6 clinching games against Montreal and Tampa Bay. In 2010, they needed six games to dispose of Buffalo (after being up 3-1) before blowing a 3-0 lead and losing in seven to Philadelphia.
Toronto looks to add to that Bruins' history.
"We've got to do anything we can do just to get back home and have another shot there," said Toronto forward Clarke MacArthur. "Tonight's a Game 7 really. It's a game where you're going to need heroes in. Someone's got to step up and have one of those games that lifts the team."
Carlyle, asked about the play of goalie James Reimer, says he and every other Leafs have to do more with the team on the brink of elimination.
"He's not any different from any other member of our hockey club, there's more for him to give," he said bluntly.
Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul was on message.
"We talked about trying to be a little more desperate," he said. "Again we thought we did a lot of things right last game so it's not like we're coming in here and going to change a whole bunch of things, but everyone can be a bit better. And that's what we expect from everyone tonight."
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