More of the same in Boston. It was less embarrassing than last season’s visits to the TD Garden, and there’s a small victory in that, but the Leafs fall short nonetheless and drop to 15-10-0 with a 4-2 loss (one empty netter) to the Bruins.
1 – In a tentative start from both teams, there was not a whole lot going on early besides a bout between Fraser and McQuaid that I’d score in Fraser’s corner. It wasn’t exciting early, but it was the tight-checking start you wanted to see from the Leafs, who were on the road in a back to back scenario.
2 – After Kessel’s stick broke leading to a powerplay opportunity, a wild stick clipped Phaneuf shortly thereafter to send the Leafs onto a 5 on 3 in the first. A good chance for the Leafs to grab the all important first goal on the road went wanting as the Leafs struggled to gain the zone. Granted, the Bruins’ PK is elite and they’re great at holding the blueline. Just one partial chance for Bozak in the slot off a Kessel feed.
3 – Bad goal to concede at the end of the 1st. Line 1’s struggles without the puck continue. Holzer gave the puck away, pinched up the board and lost the battle just outside the blueline, JvR and Bozak got caught flat footed/puck watching before Tyler Seguin barged through the scramble to grab the puck and break in on a partial breakaway. Phaneuf did enough and Scrivens made the initial save, but everyone else was behind the play allowing Bergeron to clean up the rebound and make it 1-0. Another critical error – of which there were many on that goal – was Kessel leaving his support position to fly the Leaf zone before his linemates had the puck. Just a lot going wrong on that one.
4 – The Leafs shook off the late goal and had a nice start to the 2nd, getting back to their tight checking and patient road game. After Phaneuf and Marchand roughed each other up and went to the box with offsetting roughing minors, MacArthur won the puck at the hashmarks on the ensuing 4 on 4 and broke up ice on a 2 on 1 alongside Kadri. Nice little saucer pass from MacArthur and these two are at it again. Kadri’s 11th goal and 25th point made it 1-1.
5 – The second Bruins goal came off a similarly frustrating decision from Holzer and some flat footedness from the other four. They really weren’t in terrible shape, and it’s pretty hard to believe they gave up a goal as quick as they did. Seguin slipped in unnoticed on the left side after the breakdown in the neutral zone, took a pass and beat Scrivens, who got a piece but not enough.
6 – You wonder how different this one would’ve turned out if the Leafs were to have a proper top 4 guy to play alongside Phaneuf. Carlyle wanted the Leafs to slow the Bruins down by staying aggressive and preventing them from getting set up with easy zone entries, but those were two baffling plays from Holzer, who was constantly putting himself on the wrong side of the puck out there tonight. Holzer takes the body well out front and blocks shots, and I wouldn’t mind him on the bottom pairing, but like everyone else I just don’t get it. The adherence to the right/left hand thing is just not enough to justify his presence beside Dion. The Leafs need some more puck moving ability and mobility back there. Fraser AND Holzer are too much, pick one and bring in Gardiner, please.
7 – The third line again looked great on the cycle. Good passing and quick movement off the puck, with one particularly long foray in the Bruin zone toward the end of the 2nd. They got caught the next shift, however. Gunnarsson backed off the point when a pinch might’ve been more prudent, Kadri was a step or two behind on the backcheck, a rebound later and it’s 3-1 Bruins. Game pretty much over at that point.
8 – The Grabovski line had a great third period. Their relentless puck pursuit backed the Bruins off with two or three good shifts in a row. With the Bruins collapsed on their net with five minutes to go in the third, a good pass from Gunnarsson found Grabovski on the right side, Grabovski threw it on net and McClement tipped in his third goal in his last three games to make a game of it. McClement has three goals and five points in his last 6. That’s what you have to love about a player like McClement – the versatility he brings in filling any role he’s asked to fill and filling it well.
9 – The PK was a bright spot. I also liked the push back in the third, but the Leafs looked to have nothing left in the tank in those final two minutes. Understandable given the difference in schedule between the two teams.
10 – The Leafs had the right idea for getting a result out of Boston tonight, but there were obvious problems in the execution and quantity of mistakes made. And nothing of note from the top line tonight. You do wonder if the mental challenge associated with the Bruins is almost bigger than the Bruins themselves at this point. It’s eight straight losses to the Bruins and more points for Tyler Seguin. Not fun.