After a couple of discouraging losses in Boston, the Maple Leafs are back home for what is essentially a do-or-die Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre.

With the home crowd behind them, the Leafs will need to find a way — someway, somehow — to slow down the Bruins’ top line and improve on special teams, and they’ll need to do it with an altered lineup that’s still missing Nazem Kadri and is now without Leo Komarov.

After the Leafs didn’t have the puck much in Game 1, they controlled play more in Game 2, even before they went down in the first period. That said, once four first-period goals go in and score effects set in, it’s hard to do anything but throw out the game tape; it becomes difficult to take any positives away from the hockey game.

A member of Boston’s big line was involved in all of the Bruin’s four first-period goals, and it seemed like — whether it was 5-on-5 or on the PP — those three scored on almost every scoring chance. With control over the matchups — a reduced advantage with Kadri out, granted — and the good vibes of being back home — where they were dominant in the second half of the season — the Leafs will need to come up with answers fast here.

Game 3 Storylines

  • The Bruins will get center Riley Nash back tonight. Nash got slightly more ice time and easier matchups than his career averages in his first year with the Bruins. He played an average of 15:25, with well more than half his minutes being spent centering Heinen and Backes (who he’s playing with tonight). Boston’s depth is now in an optimal position for Game 3. With Acciari down to the bottom line and their aforementioned third line back together, they have skill and two-way ability up and down the lineup. The Leafs have had the same this year, but with Kadri out and Nash in, their ability to match up down the middle is in question.
  • Deadline addition Tomas Plekanec will play on a top line with Marleau and Marner tonight. For the last section of the regular season in particular, this line was phenomenal at both ends of the rink as a matchup line with Kadri at centre. The optics of his promotion aren’t great when Plekanec has had a very limited impact and been out for some key goals against down on the fourth line, although it’s worth noting he’s not played much in a fourth-line role before — even in Montreal this year, he still spent a lot of time centering Brendan Gallagher. Plekanec has had success shutting down quality opposition in the past while creating offensively as well, but he’s going to need to find another level, to say the least, from what we’ve seen in his Leafs tenure so far.
  • Sometimes we look past the obvious keys before big games like this. The obvious key for the Leafs is how their best players perform back at home, with the crowd at their backs and control over the matchups, and whether they play like their best players. Auston Matthews and William Nylander putting up 19 and 20 shot attempts in Game 2, respectively, led the team and was a small step forward, but they need to make a big impact to turn this series around. Dominant shifts tonight from this line will be needed, even when matched up against Bergeron’s line. Are the Leafs’ difference makers going to be difference makers and take over a game?
  • Along those same lines, how will Frederik Andersen respond? The Leafs goaltending hasn’t been much of a storyline given the free pass the Bruins have been given in front of the net in Games 1 and 2, but Andersen hasn’t come up with the key save when needed, either. Coming off the yank in Game 2, does he respond like Brian Elliott did for the Flyers in Game 2? A shutout isn’t a fair expectation, but he’ll need to be a difference maker for this team — especially with its blue line seemingly in disrepair — and start outplaying the guy at the other end.

Matchup Stats

Regular Season Record49-26-7 (105pts)50-20-12 (112pts)
Shots Against/g34.828.8
5v5 CF%47.9% 52%
5v5 SV%.911.917
5v5 SH%8.38.9

Game Day Quotes

Babcock on Plekanec, his experience, and his role tonight with Kadri out:

The reason we decided to do what we’re doing is because of his experience. Any time you lose a centre, suddenly in our situation here, with Mooresy coming in and him moving spots, it makes us a bit of a different lineup. But that’s why you have depth; that’s why you have it and that’s why the guys work.

In his situation, you come in and you’re not quite as important on your next team — it’s hard to be impressive. He’ll get his opportunity here tonight. We talked about this a number of times — to be prepared for it.

Babcock on getting last change tonight at home:

Obviously, we weren’t good enough in their building; not good enough in our end. The game was closer in Game 1, and yet we played better in Game 2. We’ve been better at home all year. I don’t think that’s any different. Boston’s been better at home all year. We’ve got to play better and play well enough to get the crowd excited and get into it. We’ve got to play structurally and compete harder.

JVR on the series so far and how the team feels coming off a rough two games in Boston:

To some degree, you’ve got to manage the momentum swings and that sort of stuff. That being said, I think there’s smarter things we can do with and without they puck to spend more time in their zone.

We’re upbeat. They’re supposed to win their two home games, so we’ve got come back here, we’ve got Game 3 ahead of us, and it’s our job to win this one tonight.

Marner with some thoughts on the intensity in the playoffs:

At playoffs, every single time there’s someone touching, there’s a guy trying to finish a hit on you. It’s a seven game series, so it’s a little more intense and people are hungry. When you steal a puck in the neutral zone, if you turn it up quick, it kind of makes it hard on opponent’s defensemen to kind of read off that; guys aren’t really back.

 Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lineup

Hyman – Matthews – Nylander
(2-1-1-2) – (2-0-0-0) – (2-0-0-0) | Total Goals: 1
Marleau – Plekanec – Marner
  (2-0-0-0) – (2-0-0-0) – (2-1-1-2) | Total Goals: 1
Van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Brown
  (2-1-0-1) – (2-1-0-1) – (2-0-2-2) | Total Goals: 2
Johnsson – Moore – Kapanen
 (1-0-1-1) – (0-0-0-0) – (2-0-0-0)  | Total Goals: 0

Rielly – Hainsey
 (2-0-2-2) – (2-0-0-0) | Total Goals: 0
Gardiner – Zaitsev
 (2-0-0-0) – (2-0-0-0) | Total Goals: 0
Dermott – Polak
(2-0-0-0) – (2-0-0-0) | Total Goals: 0

Andersen (.822 sv%)
McElhinney (.826 sv%)

Extras: Leivo, Martin, Carrick

Suspended: Kadri

Injured: Komarov

Boston Bruins Projected Lineup

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
(2-1-5-6) – (2-0-5-5) – (2-4-5-9) | Total Goals: 5
Debrusk – Krejci – Rick Nash
  (2-1-1-2) – (2-2-1-3) – (2-1-0-1) | Total Goals: 4
Heinen – Riley Nash – Backes
(2-0-0-0) – (0-0-0-0) – (2-1-0-1)  | Total Goals: 1
Schaller – Kuraly – Acciari
(2-0-0-0) – (2-1-0-1) – (2-0-0-0)  | Total Goals: 1

Extras: Gionta, Wingels

Chara – McAvoy
 (2-0-1-1) – (2-0-1-1) | Total Goals: 0
Krug – Miller
 (2-0-5-5) – (2-1-0-1) | Total Goals: 1
Holden – McQuaid
(0-0-0-0) – (2-0-0-0) | Total Goals: 0

Rask (.933 sv%)
Khudobin (N/A)

Injuries: Brandon Carlo