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.
Some of you might remember how awful Wilson was with Schenn and Franson. Not only did he pass on communicating with his players, he also benched them without nurturing them back into the line-up. Sometimes playing countless minutes on a crappy team isn’t the best way to develop young players. A sit down, some theory and practice, and nurturing is what’s necessary. Gardiner’s play in this series deserves praise, but so does Carlyle and Co. for having the cojones to sit a kid who was a rookie all-star last season. It was a mental, physical, and emotional reset necessitated by the organization’s need to protect the player and push for a playoff spot.
Let’s just enjoy the improvements Gardiner has made rather than denigrate someone for them.
For tonight’s game, the boys need to come out hard and fast; this is the game that will physically and mentally challenge them. While they are riding high on the emotional win on Friday night, they need to be ready to start making physical sacrifices. If you thought that Game 4 and 5 were tough, the Bruins will be much more prepared to step up and finish this series.
It would be nice to see Grabovski’s chances start pouring in (and if they do, we will win), but it would be even better if Kadri continues to battle for more space and chip in with his first playoff goal as well. Reimer needs to continue holding the fort and the defense has to be ready to support whatever rebounds he leaves out.
It will be a great game – no matter the outcome. And whatever the outcome, it’s been a hell of a series.
Here are the morning links:
- From yesterday: Anthony’s latest Playoff Notebook.
- Remembering a great Leafs-Bruins series from the spring of 1959 – a harbinger of what’s to come for today’s Leafs?
- Bruce Arthur: Jake Gardiner living up to lofty expectations
- The Star: Maple Leafs forcing Bruins to face their demons
- Sportsnet: A belief growing among the Maple Leafs
- CBC: Randy Carlyle knows the Leafs have poked the bear