Here we are with the first ever PLAYOFF Game In 10 on MLHS. The Boston Bruins won three out of four regular season meetings between the two teams, but went 3-5-2 during the last 10 game stretch. Meanwhile, the Leafs entered the series with a 5-4-1 record. Let’s examine the
horror learning process that unfolded.
1) The Leafs are 0-0-1 and this was first post season meeting between these two teams since 1974. That series ended with a Bruins’ sweep… gulp.
2) Not even 2 minutes into the game, Bozak (who left at one point and later returned to the lineup) drew a tripping call on Bergeron. The ensuing PP saw Kessel find Bozak in his familiar spot in the high slot for the redirect towards goal. Franson collected the rebound, drew Rask out of his net, and then found JvR in front, who put one into the empty cage after providing some good net traffic. He also won the draw after Bozak got tossed out to make that play happen.
3) The first period period went downhill fast after that sublime start. The Leafs were committing turnover after turnover in the defensive zone which put Boston’s cycle game in action. Reimer‘s sublime saves kept the lead on the board but that whole segment was foreboding. Grabo worked the forecheck on Boychuck and drew a penalty for some momentary relief. This mattered little to Ference, who elbowed Grabo’s pineapple-loving head in Boston’s defensive end minutes later and escaped punishment. Shanny really needs to take a look at that.
4) Sure enough, the Bs got their goal after Wade Redden (of all people) shot a puck through Kostka, who was trying to block a shot in front of Reimer. Unfortunately, the Leafs couldn’t get out of the period with a tie game. After JvR led a big time rush on the penalty kill, where he rang iron after a nice move, he seemed to be acting on adrenaline and went for a hit when the puck was loose and free to be dumped in. The Leafs forwards were caught up ice while shorthanded as the Redden led the puck up ice, threw it on net and Horton scored on a legal tip on a fairly high puck just 11.7 seconds from time. That was a killer.
5) The 2nd period was off to a frantic start. Cody Franson drilled Marchand on the blueline, which looked exciting but Boston’s premium pest took a hit to make a play and it almost ended up in a Seguin goal, so much so that they had to review it. The puck actually ended up hitting the crossbar. The Bruins held a 17-7 shots advantage in the middle of the period. In a rare Leaf chance, a Bozak breakaway provided an opportunity to tie the game, but he fell short due to a Daugavins backcheck. The Latvian was quick to come back and tie up Bozak’s stick right before he was about to let his shot off.
6) Boston’s pressure never really let up and neither did the Leaf turnovers. After being hemmed in their own zone for about a minute and a half in the 2nd, the Leafs ended up paying a price on one such play. Fraser, who was totally overmatched tonight (as well as Kostka), handed the puck directly to the Bruins instead of sending it to open ice, leading to a quick transition as the Leafs scrambled for a change. Fraser then fell over trying to get back, got back late, and inexplicably kicked the loose puck to a Bruin in front. 3-1 Bruins. Soon after, Johnny Boychuck put the game out of reach with a blueline laser beam. Boychuck’s goal, regardless of it being stoppable, perfectly demonstrated deliberate, precise and swift puck movement with which the Bruins made their lion’s share of puck possession count.
7) One mistake aside, James van Riemsdyk was by far the most effective Leaf on the ice tonight. He skated well, positioned himself in prime scoring areas, was winning puck battles and getting shots off. Another positive for the Leafs was the faceoff circle (21-14 at the end of the 2nd), which did result in the game’s first goal but failed to give the Leafs any tangible advantage throughout as most of the puck possession quickly turned back Boston’s way. Can’t say a single Leafs defencemen handled the pressures well tonight, and really only Kulemin, Grabovski and JvR showed much up front.
8) The Bruins were obviously much more ready for playoff hockey. Any realistic Leafs fan was simply hoping to be competitive in this series. Tonight’s game didn’t qualify for that adjective. Let’s hope Carlyle makes a few adjustments for the better, because there were certainly areas the coach can take responsibility for tonight (bad line changes, pairing Kostka and Fraser as an in-game adjustment, breaking up Kadri and Lupul).
9) Tonight’s game took a physical toll on some of the Leafs players. Mikhail Grabovski was shaken up multiple times off of borderline dirty plays. Cody Franson is reported to be walking with a heavy limp due to a banged up foot. Tyler Bozak is still nursing an upper body ailment. Phil Kessel was seen wincing and had his wrist taped up by the trainers. Playoff hockey, folks.
10) To nobody’s surprise, a team with 1273 playoff games elevated their game and intensity level and overwhelmed a club with 206 playoff games in experience. 11 Leafs made their playoff debuts and simply got ran over at times. As expected, this will be a brutally tough matchup for the Leafs. The Bruins’ forecheck was giving the Leafs fits on the breakout. When the Leafs did muster the puck out to center ice, it was almost always a turn over at the redline or the other blueline. The Leafs were hesitant to simply chip and chase, get the puck in deep and make the sacrifices required on the forecheck. Keep in mind this is a major learning process with an extremely steep learning curve for this young team.