Boston Bruins

Ex-Bruin Tyler Bertuzzi still trying to find his footing with Leafs

It's been a slow start in Toronto for Tyler Bertuzzi.

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Tyler Bertuzzi made a tremendous impact on the Boston Bruins during his short stint with the Original Six franchise after they acquired him just a day before the 2023 NHL trade deadline.

He has not made that same impact with his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, through nine games.

Bertuzzi was one of Boston's best players in its first-round playoff series loss to the Florida Panthers. He tied for the team lead with 10 points (five points, five assists) in seven games.

He entered free agency last summer as one of the top forwards available. With so many teams tight against the salary cap, including the Bruins, Bertuzzi departed Boston and took a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Leafs. The Bruins pivoted by signing several veteran forwards in free agency, including Milan Lucic, James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Geekie and Patrick Brown. Van Riemsdyk has played Bertuzzi's role on the power play, and he's fared pretty well.

One criticism of the Leafs in their recent playoff failures is they weren't hard enough to play against. They lacked toughness and didn't win enough puck battles in the dirty areas of the ice, including the front of the net.

Bertuzzi loves to play in those areas. Add in his underrated playmaking skill and ability to score 20-plus goals when healthy, and it looked like the Leafs were signing an impact player who could help them take another step on their journey to a long-awaited Stanley Cup.

But Bertuzzi has failed to make a huge difference though the first nine games of his Toronto career. After scoring in the second game of the season, Bertuzzi has only one goal in his last seven matchups. Both of his goals came on the power play. His only 5-on-5 point was an assist against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 24.

It's important to remember we're only nine games in. Moving to a new city and playing with new teammates is often difficult. Bertuzzi is on his third team in the last eight months. He's a really good player and often plays his best hockey when the stakes are highest. The Leafs need players like that.

It's also fair to say Bertuzzi has not given Leafs fans that wow moment yet. Maybe it will come Thursday when Bertuzzi plays against his former Bruins teammates.

And after two straight losses, including an ugly 4-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night, the Leafs could really use a dominant performance from Bertuzzi versus a Bruins team that has owned Toronto for most of the last decade.

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