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.
1 – The game kicked off with a goosebump-invoking playoff atmosphere in the ACC. A sprightly Leafs team was feeding off the energy with a number of good rushes and plenty of finished checks. If the result goes its way tomorrow in the Sens-Bruins game, this will make for a good series. Both are fast, skilled teams and they play each other hard – hard as in high-tempo finishing of checks, not the grindy, slow-paced kind of physical play. And a lot of extracurriculars throughout.
2 – Artful troller Leo Komarov made Andre Markov throw a spas to send the Leafs to the man advantage with 7 minutes to go in the first. Kessel made Markov pay with his patented shot from the top of the circle on the powerplay. Kessel kind of shuffle boarded that one in through Budaj’s legs while Lupul caused chaos in front. Kessel finishes up with a round 20 goals on the season – all scored over his final 38 after a 10-game goalless drought to start.
3 – I like a lot about the Franson and Fraser pairing, but they are vulnerable when there’s white ice around them and a speedy attack bearing down. With the Leafs forwards caught up the ice a little – after Grabovski was the victim of a couple of big hits – Gallagher, Eller and Galchenyuk quickly broke up the ice. Franson nearly did enough to divert Eller away from goal after Gallagher floated a nice pass in behind him, but a deft little touch by Eller snuck the puck just between Reimer’s skate and the post. 1-1, a bad time to concede at period’s end.
4 – Unfortunately, the Leafs never found their game after that. The second period was a nightmare. The Leafs lost their edge, gave the puck away repeatedly, couldn’t get anything going on their PPs, committed a stupid mistake on the 3-1 goal, took a bad too many men call after another discombobulated PP, and got some bad luck (on the 2-1 goal) to boot.
5 – On said 2-1 goal, a lost draw by Leo Komarov after Grabovski got tossed from the circle sent the puck back to Andrei Markov, who threw a seeing eye puck on net that found its way through two sets of legs and beat Reimer. Tough one there.
6 – One very avoidable, dumb decision mid way through the 2nd really sank the Leafs tonight (3-1 goal). For some reason, Gunnarsson assumed Reimer would come out and play a bouncing puck well out of his reach. Reimer realized what Gunnarsson was doing only too late (seeing as it was a stupid thing to do), getting beat to the puck by Brendan Gallagher, who poked it in. Gunnarsson committed a double foul there by not impeding Gallagher’s path to the puck.
7 – Pretty disappointed in the decision to sit Frattin tonight. Thought he was gathering some confidence and starting to rediscover some of his pre-injury form.
8 – The Leafs didn’t do themselves any favours with their failure to take advantage of opportunities on the powerplay in the 2nd and 3rd. You’re not going to score on every one, and the Leafs did cash in on the PP in the first, but the manner in which they failed to generate anything of note on their other four was totally deflating. In this regard, the Leafs missed Bozak tonight. Not only for his faceoff prowess that helps to set up the PP, but for the element he brings when roving the slot. It makes the opposition respect the inside pass option and is pretty key to their whole set up. The Leafs were running a tweaked formation, with Lupul down low and Kadri darting around on the right side, and it was obvious they were struggling to adapt. MacArthur was out on the second unit and he had a poor game, as well as Grabovski.
9 – The Leafs-Habs season series took a turn for the unpredictable after the tight 2-1 Leaf win in the season opener. The teams have essentially traded blow outs over the past 4. Hard to know what to expect in a potential playoff series.
10 – The Leafs’ playoff opponent will come down to the result of tomorrow’s game between the Bs and Sens. Anything less than a Bruins win and the Leafs are headed to Boston for the start of round 1.