Playoff Notebook – May 7

Playoff Notebook – May 7

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If the story of game 2 was the Leafs‘ excellent line-matching and the great performances from their stars, the story of game 3 was the Leafs shooting themselves in the foot.

The simple fact of the matter is that when you make the mistakes the Leafs did, you are rarely going to win a playoff game.

Alec already went through all of the goals against this morning so I’m not going bother doing that again. Plus, I think we all know what happened. Other than the first goal, which was the result of a lost faceoff and unfortunate bounce, the Leafs gift wrapped Boston three other goals with giveaways and poor defense.

The chances the Leafs have at beating Boston after spotting them three easy goals have to be slim to none.

Other than those select brain farts though, the Leafs actually played a pretty good game. They went practically shot-for-shot with Boston all night. They hit the post three times and they generated a lot of zone time and pressure. Overall, if you’re the Leafs today you have to be thinking that, if we clean up some mistakes but play like this the rest of the series, we have a pretty good chance at winning.

- 17 of the Leafs 48 shots were generated from their defense, led by Cody Franson, who had 7, followed by Phaneuf and Gardiner who had 4 each. When the Leafs get the puck in the offensive zone they clearly try to work it back to the point, crash the net, and get pucks through. The issue for long stretches of the game last night, particularly in the first period, is that the Leafs didn’t have anybody in front of the net. On three separate occasions, Franson got the puck on the point, looked up, and had nobody in front of the net. He was holding it, waiting for guys to get in front, and it ultimately resulted in weak shots that were either right at Rask with no screen, or picked off by a Bruins player.

- If you look at the goals the Leafs did get, both of them were in part because of work done in front of the net. The first goal was largely caused by JVR causing havoc in the crease, and the second goal was a goalmouth scramble.

- On that note, JVR has been an animal every game so far. Along with Grabovski he was easily their best player in game 1, driving the net hard all night and playing with an edge. In game 2 his line was a force and he scored the insurance goal. Last night he helped create Gardiner’s goal and was in Boston’s face all night. Often he’s right in the middle of it when you watch post-whistle scrums in front of the Bruins net. He had 7 shots last night, too.

- Fraser got beat pretty badly on the third goal of the night, but I was wondering why he was on the right side to begin with. He’s not a skill guy or exactly fleet of foot, so asking him to play on his offside is most likely a recipe for disaster. On that shift he was on with Gunnarsson, who is obviously more skilled and capable of playing on the right even though he’s a lefty. I just wonder if the speculated hip injury he’s playing with limits him from turning a certain way thus why he was on the left side next to Fraser.

- Gunnarsson only played 17:06 in game 3, with only O’Byrne playing less. He played great in game 2, but one of the things about playoffs is you play every other night. If you’re hurt, that’s going to creep up and get you eventually. Hopefully he’s able to suck it up and battle through it the rest of the way.

- I’d be interested to see a stat showing how many times Bozak was kicked out of the faceoff circle pre and post this goal. It seems Bozak gets kicked out because he jumps the gun on the draw, in part, I bet, because he doesn’t want to not be prepared. The referees also seem twitchy on the draws, too. They get to the circle, put their hand out, and simply don’t drop it. Faceoffs are nerve-racking to take and if the ref is just standing there with his arm holding the puck out, eventually some sort of slight movement is going to cause one of the faceoff men to flinch.

- Bozak went 12/29 at the dot yesterday and also got kicked out a few times, leading to JVR’s 0/2 and at least some of Lupul’s 1/4. When you keep lining up at the faceoff dot and losing, it’s extremely demoralizing and it eats at you, and it’s actually very hard to get your confidence back in-game to get rolling again. Sometimes you just have to admit a guy doesn’t have it and try something else. Bozak himself said after the game that his timing was off.
Grabovski was 11/20 on the night, conversely. He played 16:36 to Bozak’s 19:51. Bozak was fantastic in game 2, but as I said, sometimes you just have to realize it’s not happening for a guy in a game and try something else.

- Before the series, I picked Cody Franson as my X-factor with the reason being that he would play against the Krejci line most often. Since he was playing with a partner who isn’t a top 4 calibre play, he would be largely responsible for moving the puck up ice and neutralizing their attack. Well, that line has 17 points combined through 3 games for the Bruins. It’s not Franson’s fault, because they haven’t been scoring mainly on him, and when they have it’s rarely been his fault. Franson was on for two goals against last night but they were the faceoff goal and the Kessel giveaway goal. Point being, they need to play him against the Krejci line all the time, and they might even need to play him with a partner that can skate because Fraser has been caught flat-footed far too often through three games.

- Another time on ice total that needs to be bumped up is the 16:40 Lupul played last night. Unless he’s hurt or something, he needs to play. Especially since the Leafs were down and in need of goals. He’s one player on the team who can create something out of nothing and also has a knack for finishing.

- Kessel and Gardiner had a ridiculous give-and-go near the end of the game to break into the Bruins zone. Gardiner was skating up ice and ripped a puck to Kessel, who was at the blue line, and Kessel kind of curled the puck in, drew in the defender and dished it off to Gardiner cutting into the zone. Nothing really resulted of the play, but it was nice to see two of the Leafs most talented players work together and show some chemistry. Gardiner was an offensive catalyst all night and almost split Chara and Seidenberg on one play.

- After last game, I asked if changes should be made and pretty well everyone said no. The Leafs had two pretty good players sitting in the press box last night and Liles in particular would have been useful as Fraser and O’Byrne both got burned. I think O’Byrne had the kind of game that causes the coaches to no longer play him anymore, but we’ll see. You can’t convince me Liles can’t give the Leafs a better 13:17 than O’Byrne.

- A lot was made of getting Kessel away from Chara, so the Bruins just countered by playing Chara a ton. He played 27:31, and he was out there most times when there was a defensive zone draw. Julien and Carlyle’s chess match in game 2 basically became, “I’m going to play him as much as I can, and you can do whatever you want.” The Leafs have to hope Chara wears down a bit eventually, and they’ll have to get physical with him and hope he makes a mistake or two. The Leafs still got Kessel away from Chara, but when he’s playing nearly half the game and shutting you down for it, it’s hard win by only possibly scoring in the half of the game he isn’t on for. The Leafs did score when Chara was on in the third period, but it was a power play goal.

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5 Questions for Game 4

1 – Will Liles draw back in?

O’Byrne obviously struggled and Fraser has been exposed repeatedly. The Bruins have struggled to deal with the Leafs speed, so you have to think that dressing another skater can only help the Leafs. Also, as much as I like Hamilton, MacArthur is just a way better option for the top 9 when you need a goal.

2 – Can Reimer steal one?

We all know that the Leafs being down 2-1 isn’t Reimer’s fault, but chances are the Leafs aren’t advancing unless he steals at least one game this series.

3 – Will some Leafs players breakout?

Phaneuf, Grabovski and Kulemin have two things in common – they’ve been playing well, and they each only have one assist to show for it. The Leafs need these guys to score a bit more.

4 – Can the Leafs figure out the faceoff circle?

They’ve been getting killed against Boston all series long, and it’s starting to take its toll. Whether it’s a technical thing, or if they need to start putting out some guys more than others for them I don’t know, but they need to figure it out.

5 – Can the Leafs carry the positives forward from game 3?

Sounds weird to say when you look at the final score and consider that it was 4-1 at one point, but the Leafs generated a ton of shots and chances for once and it was nice to see. Hopefully they carry that over to game 4 while minimizing their mistakes.

Anthony Petrielli has been at MLHS since 2011. He is known for his weekly "Leafs Notebook" feature, and also writes specific analysis pieces. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli.

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