Toronto looks for their 1st win on home ice in this series (and in 9 years) and you can expect that they will be a little less tight in the 1st period than they were in their 1st playoff game at the ACC on Monday night. Toronto has been getting progressively better during the series and looks to be the match of Boston if they play their system and don’t gift them goals like did the entire game on Monday.
The story of the game Monday was turnovers, clearly, and if Toronto can limit them—they lead the league in turnovers this year, don’t expect them to be eradicated—and keep playing the way they have been playing, they will win this game and this series. As it stands, Boston’s experience and composure is the difference maker at this stage; they aren’t making the huge errors in the dangerous areas of the ice. Reimer has been brilliant all year, but would probably want a couple back from Monday’s game and needs to be better than Tukka Rask this game. Not to parrot MSM, but this team has always rallied well and showed that in Game 2 of this series. Expect more of the same today if turnovers and goaltending are better.
Carlyle is not saying what the lineups will be, but it doesn’t look like any changes in the forward group. John-Michael Liles may sub in for Ryan O’Byrne, but it’s a 50/50 decision; he’s going to get eaten alive in the corners and in one-on-one battles, but his puck moving ability may help to expose Boston’s average speed, compared to the Leafs, who are still one of the best—if not the—rush-attack teams in the league. Despite the playoffs being a series where dirty goals win you games, Toronto has thrived on scoring on high-skilled plays off the rush or the second chances off of those and will need to convert on those to win this game. Toronto’s “Overload Powerplay” matches up well against Boston’s penalty kill and Toronto needs to convert on those chances they’ll get. Nazem Kadri, please do your thing. Toronto will need 3-4 good opportunities tonight in order to convert.
On the topic of the powerplay, it would be nice to see Dion and Franson split up to allow a puck-moving defenseman into that top pairing—either JML or Jake Gardiner. Toronto has had difficulty getting through the neutral zone with Dion leading the rush, but have excelled with Gardiner slicing through the neutral zone and gaining entry into the offensive zone with relative ease. That allows Toronto to have a big shot paired with a roving, PMD on PP#1 and PP#2. As usual, special teams and goaltending win you games in the playoffs and adjustments will be needed to help expose better expose Boston on the PK. On top of this, Boston is extraordinarily agressive on their PK and has been getting scoring chances, which is hard to watch. A more fleet of foot defenceman on the point and on the breakout would certainly help in this regard.
Toronto vs Boston Lineups