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.
1 – The Bruins came out of the gates with a strong 2 minutes, but the Leafs weathered the brief early storm and then completely dominated the play, pace and scoring chances for the remaining 18 minutes. The Leafs should have been up 2-0 after 1. The Leafs’ speed game was in full sprint, they were forcing turnovers and the Bruins were a step behind all period. It was simply the Tuukka Rask show. The Leafs put a few too many right into his bread basket and the Bruins D did a pretty good job boxing Leafs forwards out of the key ice, but for the most part this is what running into a hot goalie looks like and feels like. I.e. frustrating. The Leafs continued to find Rask’s logo with the majority of their shots and couldn’t cash in despite continuing to carry the play early in the 2nd. Would have preferred to see the Leafs shoot low and hard at the pad for rebounds in some of those situations.
2 – At the half way point of the 2nd, remember this save. Reimer made an absolute stunner. While the Leafs held a significant edge in scoring chances, that was the best chance for either team to that point and Reimer pulled off an amazing desperation toe save on Patrice Bergeron to keep it even. Totally different game if he doesn’t make that save.
3 – I’m not sure how the refs picked out the JvR interference call among all of the extracurriculars going on this game, but the Leafs PK responded admirably shortly after the big Reimer save. The PK held steady, and after a scrum on the sideboard, the puck sprung out behind Ference into the neutral zone and Bozak outraced him for a breakaway goal. Bozak found a hole in Rask for his first of the playoffs.
4 – At the end of 2nd, I loved the way the Leafs responded to Chara driving the net. Liles did his darndest to get a piece of him, and seemed to resort to biting his ankle by the end of it. O’Byrne jumped on his back, and eventually Chara toppled. It resembled a pack of hyenas taking down a giraffe. Taking a piece of this guy at every opportunity is important, especially now that this series is going at least 6.
5 – The 3rd period started with a swapping of end to end chances, as goal mouth scrambles nearly led to goals at both ends. Bozak fell over with the net empty waiting, before Chara had a partial breakaway and was turned away by Reimer. In just his fourth minute of ice time (this was in the third period), MacArthur jumped on a bad outlet pass by Adam McQuaid and sprung in on Tuuka Rask. Flashing nice hands in tight, MacArthur beat Rask to give the Leafs an extremely valuable 2-0 insurance marker. MacArthur has two key goals in his last two games despite a big time shortage in ice time the last two games.
6 – The Leafs went into a defensive shell after the MacArthur goal, and the Bruins stepped up their aggression level. Active pinching up the walls and domination on the cycle combined with failed clearance opportunities put the Bruins within 1 with far too much time left on the clock. Carl Gunnarsson and Dion Phaneuf were caught on the ice for nearly 2 full minutes, with Gunnarsson failing to take three opportunities to clear the zone. Eventually, the Bruins found an opening as Chara snuck into the high slot and beat Reimer after receiving pass out of the corner.
7 – I need to hop on my soapbox about the delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass, which nearly cost the Leafs tonight in the final 5 minutes. Of all the ways teams intentionally delay games, like the Bruins intentionally having their wingers kicked out of the draw after an icing or by intentionally confusing the refs as to who should be on the ice, it is infuriating to me that the league chooses to punish this of all infractions. If a player can flip a puck over the glass, he can flip it down the ice. A puck over the glass should be a defensive zone faceoff, with the defending team prevented from changing, much like an icing. The call was all the more frustrating because the refs had effectively put their whistles away on all judgment calls by that point. Anyways, end rant.
8 – It was the James Reimer show for the final 5-10 minutes in the 3rd. The Leafs blocked a fair number of shots but didn’t provide much help otherwise. Failed, or to-the-line-but-not-out, clearances were bailed out by nice save after nice save as the Bruns poured it on and the Leafs held on for dear life. His second biggest save was in the dying moments on Jaromir Jagr right in the slot… Amazing blocker save. Reimer didn’t have much work early but made timely saves throughout and then slammed shut the door in the final 10 to send this back to Toronto. All hail King James.
9 – Strong games from Jake Gardiner, his second in a row, and Ryan O’Byrne tonight. O’Byrne tied up the stick at a few key moments and cleared the crease well throughout. Gardiner continued to be a one man breakout for this team and was giving the Bruins fits with his wheels. Gardiner has earned Carlyle’s trust, visible in the team-leading 24 minutes he played. You can’t convince me this was the same Gardiner from earlier in the season.. he’s learned the hard way what he needs to do from the defensive and physical standpoints under Carlyle, and it’s showing. Carlyle has caught so much shit for his treatment of Gardiner and some need to eat crow after this; he’s identified what Gardiner can bring to this matchup, allowed Gards to prove it and has rewarded him with ample minutes. Gardiner taking on a 24 minute workload allowed Phaneuf to take on a much lighter 21 minutes tonight.
10 – The Leafs have made a series of this and there’s justice in that. It could just as easily be 3-2 Leafs at this point. In the last 3 games, the Bruins haven’t really had an answer for the Leafs’ team speed other than to be patient and wait for the Leafs to make a critical mistake. Creating on their own has been a problem from Game 2 onward for the Bruins. The Leafs can do this. They really can.