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Boston Bruins

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Crushed.

I keep repeating that word in my head. Just letting it marinate until I can chew on it and get it through my system. My body is shaking from emotional exhaustion. This is the adrenaline wearing off, I’m pretty sure.

Seeing Reimer on the ice face-down in despair… crushing.

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Strap yourselves in. The biggest Leaf game in nearly a decade is just a few hours away.

Do the Leafs have the momentum, is Boston frustrated, does Boston feel the pressure more, did their delayed flight help them or hurt them? It’s all academic. Come puck drop tonight, this series is reset to a best of one and it comes down to who executes better over the 60 minutes.

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After such a critical shortage of meaningful moments in the last decade for this hockey club, these last few days have been almost too much, too fast. Last night, the Leafs earned their first playoff home win in 9 years and the city went bonkers. Dion Phaneuf redeemed himself for his role in an OT loss last playoff home game – which at the time could have been the last this season – splatting yolk on the faces of certain media members eager to get an early start on their postmortem scapegoating of the most valuable members of the hockey team. Phil Kessel scored his third of the series in what proved to be the game winner, of which he now has two against the Bruins in this series. Now, there is a less than 24-hour turnaround to get ready for Game 7, the next biggest game for this fanbase since 2004.

My oh my.

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These Leafs will not go quietly. After another hard fought, fast-paced game with excellent goaltending, Toronto eked out a 2-1 win that has forced a seventh game tomorrow night back in Boston.  With standout performances from Reimer, Gardiner, et al., the Maple Leafs secured their first win on home ice of this postseason.  Hopefully, it won’t be their last.

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With their backs against the wall, the Maple Leafs will look to force a seventh game by winning at home for the first time this postseason.

Toronto will undoubtedly play with the desperation they showed for most of Friday night. The difference tonight will be that the Bruins are also starting to feel the pressure.  Boston will be throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the Leafs and James Reimer in an effort to close out this series.  With the continuing struggles of Seguin and Marchand, the offensive load will likely be carried by the Krejci line.

At the other end of the ice, two feisty Leafs centers in Mikhail Grabovski and Nazem Kadri earnestly want to make a contribution of their own to their team’s success.  With the way Grabovski has elevated his game in these playoffs, it should only be a matter of time before the Belorussian finds his name on the scoresheet.

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The Leafs are back in Toronto down 3-2 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. One more win and it is back to Boston to determine the winner of what has already been an excellent display of hockey.

I want to take a moment to praise Gardiner. Friday night’s game was the best I have ever seen Gardiner play. I noted a while ago that there were many issues plaguing Gardiner’s game that the coaching staff needed to iron out. From missing assignments to giving up strong body position on the walls, or simply not being physically engaged, it was a really rough stretch for Gardiner.

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If you have been following along with my Notebooks since the playoffs started, you’ll know that I’ve continually asked if James Reimer was going to steal the Leafs a game at some point in this series.

Well, he’s officially stolen one.

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We’re headed back to Toronto for Game 6. The book isn’t yet closed on this team’s 2013 story as the Leafs continue to prove to their detractors that this season was no 48-game fluke. After three games in which the Leafs looked every bit Boston’s match, early Leaf domination gave way for the James Reimer show as the Leafs finally got the reward for all of their endeavour.

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I remember it like it was last night. An ill-timed pinch, two Bruins streaking out of the zone, and a “dagger” into the heart of Leafs Nation after an overtime in which the Leafs carried the play. This one is going to take some time to digest. Although the boys battled their tails off, and went toe-to-toe with one of the favourites in the East,  some mistakes and puck misfortune ultimately sealed the Leafs’ fate after starting 2-0 up in a brilliant first period.

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Game #4, Boston Bruins at Maple Leafs

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.

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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.

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I was one of the more deflated Leafs fans after witnessing game 1 of this Leafs-Bruins playoff series. I knew Boston previously matched up like kryptonite against the Leafs, and the game went pretty much exactly as I envisioned in my head; essentially, it was an extension of the last dozen or so matchups against the Bs.

Then Game 2 happened. And, even after last night’s Game 3 loss, I now consider myself considerably less pessimistic.

Let’s break down the goals against from last night:

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Toronto put up a valiant effort in their first home playoff game in far too long. Despite finally outshooting their opponents, the Maple Leafs paid the price for a handful of individual, but egregious errors. The Bruins regained their home ice advantage with the victory, but the Leafs sustained offensive pressure and created numerous chances with nearly fifty shots on the night.  In short – tonight’s tilt was reminiscent in many ways of the positives from game two, with a scattering of costly turnovers that were the trademark of game one.

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The unexpected catharsis of Saturday’s night win in Boston has provided Leafs Nation with a much needed release of some tension and anger after game one’s eye-opening reality check.

The Leafs are now heading into Toronto tied with Boston after stealing home-ice advantage.  For the first time since 2004, our Toronto Maple Leafs will host a playoff game in the Air Canada Centre!

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Lee Stempniak, Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Jonas Gustavsson, Brett Lebda, John Ferguson Jr. Those and others like them have plagued the Maple Leafs for the past eight seasons and gave us fits of hopelessness, despair, and rage. Tonight represents the the culmination of Toronto’s retooling; the first playoff game in the Air Canada Centre since May 4th, 2004.

As much as our excitement over a first round series has been mocked , it’s generally falling on deaf ears. Are we over doing it for a first round series? I don’t think so. I think the hockey world is just getting reacquainted with how real hockey fans support their team in the playoffs. Hockey in Toronto is not confined to the arena, it spills out across the entire city.

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Seems nobody told the Leafs this wasn’t supposed to be much of a series.

Toronto stole home ice advantage from Boston with a thrilling 4-2 win last night and if the first playoff game back in Toronto didn’t already hold enough intrigue, it’s now going to be officially bonkers.

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Well, that was a rude awakening wasn’t it? Here we were all were excited and pumped up about playoff hockey… Only to come crashing back to Earth watching the Leafs play like that.

After the jump, I’ll discuss the main narratives circulating right now and offer my two cents. From there I proceeded to re-watch the game – unfortunately — and have written out some additional notes. I’ll wrap up with the biggest questions going into Game 2.

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Game 1 is in the books and after a brief moment of post-season exaltation that was nine years in the making, the Leafs were handed a 4-1 drubbing from the Beantown Bruins. ICYMI, here’s the first ever Playoffs Game in 10 in MLHS history via Mislav.

Not shockingly, this game resembled those from prior seasons, where 5-on-5 hockey looked like a Bruins powerplay, giveaways were in abundance, and the Leafs’ top offensive players were unable to gain the Bruins zone with any sort of speed, aggression or consistency.  At certain points in the game, even the Bruins’ fourth line had the Leafs hemmed into their own zone. As Carlyle put it during his post-game presser, the team just seemed to implode and “guys were falling down” even when no one was around (psst…Barb Underhill).