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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.
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!
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.
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.
Reimer, Reimer, gotta be startin’ Reimer.
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.
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).
We are within 2 hours (update: 1 hour, 50 minutes) (update 1 hour, 49 minutes) (update 1 hour, 48 minutes) of the moment we’ve all been waiting for – Leafs playoff hockey.
No official word on final lineup combinations as of yet but we’ll update as soon as we know.
Photo: Associated Press
Since when do the Leafs do things the easy way, anyways? The truth is the Leafs made their bed on this one. All they had to do was beat Montreal at home on Saturday night to play the Habs and give everyone the series they wanted to see. They laid an egg. Boston blows a two goal lead against Washington and then lets in a late one against Ottawa to lose two games in a row and here we are.
I don’t think the Leafs have a better chance at beating Boston than they did Montreal, but I’ll say this about the series: Nobody is seriously picking the Leafs to win this one and I look forward to seeing Toronto in the underdog role. If nothing else, hopefully they make this a war.
It’s official. The Leafs will face the Bruins in round one.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for the Habs on Tuesday. As much as the last four games against the Habs have been a mixed bag, the Leafs have been able to play their game and play to their strengths against Montreal. The Leafs have played the Bs much more competitively this season, but the Bruins have still been effective at negating the Leafs speed and skill up front, slowing them down and forcing them to grind for every goal. While the Bruins have backed into the playoffs, their forecheck is still top notch. For a Leafs team that struggles to diffuse a forecheck with efficient breakouts, that’s a scary prospect. The Bruins have experience, the core of a past Stanley Cup winner and play a tough playoff brand of hockey.
Photo: Getty Images
In hiring Tim Leiweke, MLSE has brought in a guy who is partly what many fans have always wanted in a President, and partly what they detest.
It is no secret that Leafs fans have always felt slighted within their perception that MLSE cares mainly about making money rather than winning. Leiweke, however, is a guy who most certainly does care about winning.
The Leafs finish the season at 26-17-5 (57 points) and not on the note we were hoping for headed into the playoffs. Their round 1 opponent is now up in the air and will depend on the result of tomorrow’s Ottawa-Boston game.
Can’t wear your jersey 24 hours a day? Get this Beatles-inspired T-shirt exclusive to Maple Leafs Hot Stove just in time for the PLAYOFFS!!!
The Toronto Maple Leafs are officially in the playoffs.
I hope that felt as good to read as it did to write.
It has been a long nine years since Jeremy Roenick broke Leafs Nations’ hearts in 2004. The excitement that year was nuts. The Leafs traded for Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch for a bunch of guys nobody knew existed and Toronto was buzzing with Stanley Cup hopes. I remember Leetch’s first game against the Islanders; Leetch had three points and the TV broadcast had this stupid iso-camera on Leetch every time he touched the ice. (Ironic side note: the only player traded in the deal who became relevant in the NHL was drafted with the expended second round pick, a player by the name of Michael Sauer – you know, the guy who had his career ended by Phaneuf).
IT’S OVER. The Maple Leafs are playoff bound after 9 years on the outside looking in as the clinch has been sealed with a 4-1 victory in Ottawa Saturday night. Enjoy this moment, Leafs fans.
Toronto gave up five goals for the second consecutive game as John Tavares and the Islanders took tonight’s tilt decisively. The Leafs built a two-goal lead on their first two shots of the game before paying their dues to the tune of five consecutive goals against on account of inattentive and sloppy play.
A couple of days ago, I had a pretty interesting conversation with @Dudgee (solid MLHS guy, give him a follow) when he first stated that he thought the Leafs brass should withhold judgement on Kessel and Bozak until we see them in the playoffs. This got me thinking, because Bozak is due for an extension and Kessel is going into the final year of his contract, ultimately with the prospects of a massive raise from his current $5.400mn salary. So I wondered – is Bozak destined to simply be a rental player for the Leafs during the playoffs, or is there anything he can do to solidify himself as a key cog in the organization?
Judging from most of the stuff I’ve heard on Twitter, if seems like the masses are ready to dispose of Bozak, and I wanted to reach out to our writers to see what they thought. From my side, regardless of whether Bozak stays, or not, the situation at centre will change – with Kadri’s ascension and Grabovski’s sub-optimization – and this summer could mark the beginnings of the organization’s intense search for a #1 Centre, which is key to turning the Leafs into a better possession team.
I hope to have an article up later in the week, but for now I thought I’d share some notes.
A Leafs win and a Jets loss would mean the Leafs are officially post-season bound. Oh my god, it’s been so long I don’t remember how to feel. What boggles my mind is how many Leafs fans weren’t even 10 years old when it happened. God, that makes a man in his 30s feel old. Let’s see what happens…
As the Toronto Maple Leafs skip along to their first playoff berth in eight seasons, Dion Phaneuf’s play is forcing his name to be included in discussion for the Norris Trophy. The Norris is awarded annually to “the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” and that sure sounds like the play of the Leaf captain this season.
He plays a physical, two-way brand of hockey and sits fifth-best in league for defensemen scoring with eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points in 42 games. He’s a leader on the ice, the best defender on the team by a mile and has joined forces with Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and James Reimer to drag the Leafs into contention.
But how does his performance this season stack up against performances past, and what greater truths can we find about the anatomy of a Norris Nominee?
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