Returning to the scene of the catastrophe, this game was in some ways a microcosm of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series last May. The Leafs were badly overmatched at first, started to figure the Bruins out as the game wore on, but ultimately fell short. In the end, the Leafs fell 3-1 and move to 11-6-0 on the season. The offense has dried up on the Leafs as of late, scorers of just two goals in their last three games. Loss aside, this is a fun if frustrating rivalry (we all know the Bruins have mastered the art of getting away with dirty plays). 80 hits were thrown between the two teams and many of some magnitude.
1 – The Bruins dominated the first period. The Bruins were controlling pace of play (i.e. slowing it down and playing their game) with good puck management, clean breakouts and an effective chip game. Their forecheck was forcing turnover after turnover. The Leafs had one good chance, when Gardiner slipped into the slot unmarked. If he could have another shot at it, he probably would have taken it to the backhand for the empty net finish rather than one timing the puck into Rask.
2 – In the second half of the first period, the Leafs spent 2:10 straight in their own zone, as the Bruins were just cycling them into the ground with Ranger-Fraser on the ice and Kulemin wandering around without a stick (he passed his off to Ranger). Every Leaf was exhausted, standing still, and praying for a whistle, or the period to end, or something. I watched Fraser touch the puck and hand it back over three times on that shift. The Bruin siege led to a powerplay, which they inevitably scored on. Chara giving the Leafs fits in front brought back painful memories.
3 – What an amazing second period from the Leafs. So much to like in their 18-shot effort that stemmed from a similar territorial dominance to what the Bruins imposed on the Leafs in the first. Phaneuf got things moving in the right direction with two great hits four minutes into the second, which is becoming a positive trend from the Captain when his team is down and looking lifeless. Once the Leafs could actually string some passes together coming out of their zone, they were able to establish a forecheck, cycle and outskate the Bruins as we know they can.
More of this going forward, Leafs. Please, for the love of God, more of this.
4 – Finally, the Leafs got their reward with three minutes left in the second period. The play started after a great stick by Paul Ranger to break up an attack, before his flip pass sent Lupul on a rush the other way. Lupul turned the puck up ice and drove to the outside of Dennis Seidenberg. Joffrey saw some room shortside-high on Rask and roofed it.
5 – The game kind of hinged on a double minor penalty JvR took at the end of the second period when he got his stick up high battling a Bruin in front of the net. JvR was getting chippy after he was taken down by Marchand in the first, and he seemed to be a ticking time bomb headed toward an undisciplined penalty. Fraser and Ranger made a mess of their net front coverage on the PK (Ranger fell over Reimer) and it was 2-1 Bruins.
6 – The game got downright dirty in the final 10 minutes, and it was mostly the Bruins’ doing. Elbow to the face of Ashton, high hit on Kadri, high stick to the face of Lupul, cross check to the back of the head of Gardiner, hit from behind on Clarkson… the one thing that got called was a cheap little hook on Lupul. The Leafs landed one good hit when Franson cleared out Marchand (I think it was Marchand, going from memory) as he tried to drive the net shorthanded.
7 – The Leafs could not get anything going on their two third period powerplays, one of which they were forced to use Smithson for because Kadri had to be checked out in the dressing room. Toronto was just gassed in the third period; Phaneuf’s play exemplified it, as he was so good for the Leafs for much of the night but just had nothing left on the final few shifts.
8 – I said before the game that Carlyle made a mistake not playing Rielly in this game (over Fraser). The best way to diffuse the Bruin pressure is with defencemen who can move their legs, evade a forechecker, move the puck through traffic, and join the attack. I thought we learned this lesson last May. It’s the only way the Leafs can beat the Bruins, who are fierce on the forecheck and well-organized defensively with ample backside pressure. One personnel decision does not a game break, but it sure didn’t help. Fraser-Ranger spent a lot of time in their own end tonight (primarily matched up against Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly).
9 – The Gardiner-Franson pairing knows how to handle the Bruins. Both are able to move the puck against the Bruin forecheck and seem to elevate their physical games. Gardiner is the tonic to the Bruins; his speed and puck moving ability is huge and he can get away with pinching (which he did a number of times, effectively) against a team that can’t burn you with speed. Fraser, on the other hand, really struggled in the playoff series under the trademark Bruin forecheck pressure, and he had a poor game tonight; he struggled to get his feet moving and struggled to move the puck safely under the heat applied by the Bruins.
10 – The Leafs scoring depth is obviously damaged by the losses of Bolland and Bozak. It’s a little disappointing, however, that the likes of Nikolai Kulemin and David Clarkson have been unable to grind out a dirty goal or two for this team as of yet. Mason Raymond and Nazem Kadri are also pointless in the last three. Uncharacteristically bad night for the Leafs special teams, as well.
The Leafs are off until Wednesday, before another back-to-back next weekend (the schedule is BS).
Leafs vs. Bruins - November 9, 2013Bruins 3 vs. Leafs 1.
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||0||0||-1||4||1||3||0||1||0||43%||3:16:00||0:21:00||18:58:00|
|34||J. Reimer (L) 4-2-0||26 - 26||5 - 7||0 - 0||31 - 33||0.939||0||59:37:00|
|15:27||BOS||PPG - Zdeno Chara (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Jarome Iginla (7), Torey Krug (4)||1 - 0 BOS|
|16:52||TOR||Joffrey Lupul (8) Snap shot - ASST: Paul Ranger (4)||1 - 1 Tie|
|1:05||BOS||PPG - Patrice Bergeron (4) Snap shot - ASST: Carl Soderberg (5), Reilly Smith (9)||2 - 1 BOS|
|19:38||BOS||EN - Patrice Bergeron (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Loui Eriksson (3), Brad Marchand (4)||3 - 1 BOS|