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Despite controlling the better part of the first 40 minutes, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the costly mistakes, fell behind, and couldn’t manufacture enough of a push in the third period of Game 4.

The Leafs now find themselves in the unenviable position of sitting on the brink of elimination heading back to TD Garden for Game 5.

Your game in ten:

1.  After a seeing-eye puck went in on them in the first minute, the Leafs did a good job of shrugging off the early goal against. Their defensemen were jumping up aggressively and forcing turnover after turnover. Their forwards were getting in and disrupting on the forecheck. The Leafs looked like the much faster team for most of the period and successfully scattered the Bruins, who are usually well-organized as a five-man unit coming out of their zone. That “wave after wave” pressure the Leafs can generate when on their game was in full effect over a sustained spell through the middle of the period when the Bruins went a full six minutes without a shot on goal. It was a 1-1 period, but with a clear advantage in the run of play for the Leafs.

2.  The Leafs were again the better team in the middle 20, but they couldn’t capitalize on a breakaway for Marner, a 2-on-1 that Dominic Moore shot into Rask’s glove, or a 2-on-1 Marleau couldn’t elevate the puck on, along with a number of half chances. They were on pace for 40 shots at the midway mark, outshooting the Bruins 20-11 halfway through the second. But they made the critical error and entered the third period trailing the Boston Bruins – a losing proposition 90% of the time. The Bruins didn’t lose a single game in regulation when leading after two periods this season (33-0-4).

3.  When you spot a team like Boston a 2-0 lead in a series, there is very little margin for error. The Leafs were the better team for the first 40 minutes, but if you make a few costly mistakes and fall behind going into period #3, there are few teams better at locking a game down than Boston, and we saw that tonight. The Leafs generated almost nothing when they needed their biggest push of the season. A lot of credit goes to the Bruins, but the Leafs could hardly get a shot through. They hadn’t really earned it, but Babcock put it on his best guys to step up in the third, double shifting Matthews and Nylander, rotating them both into the 4C role. The Leafs didn’t generate a scoring chance of note.

4. The series is not over, but this game was a new kind of disappointing compared to the first two losses. Sitting down 2-1, playing at home, with a chance to make it a whole new series (with Kadri coming back, to boot), they were handed a gift in the Bergeron injury.  They just didn’t get the job done.

5.  Obviously, Travis Dermott can’t fire the puck into a shinpad and Jake Gardiner can’t get neither the puck or the player on those individual plays leading to the 2-1 and 3-1 goals against. But this team’s inability to defend a 2-on-1 competently throughout the entire season has been a frustrating puzzle. It’s felt like déjà vu watching the last D back fail to take the pass away. This should’ve been sorted out by now by DJ Smith and the defense group, and yet it partially sunk them in the biggest game of their season.

Some of the Leafs defensemen are better at it than others – Ron Hainsey plays them well enough, and there were a few examples later in the season where Morgan Rielly seemed to be developing the knack for laying out and executing a sweep check in those situations. But it’s something the group has largely struggled with all year.

6. The best defensemen at this – Drew Doughty is one — get in the passing lane, wedge the puck carrier off for the shot, do a three-quarter lay down, and use the outside skate to turn the carrier into the shooter before attempting a sweep check. These 2-on-1s should’ve been a point of emphasis in practice at various points throughout the year, and yet here we are.

7.  A lot of the criticism is going to go Nylander and Matthews’way — and Gardiner’s way — after this game, and that’s fair to some extent (within reason), but there’s also the team’s leading goal scorer who has been totally absent all series.

Now four games into the playoffs, James van Riemsdyk is still playing at regular season speed at 5v5, and there hasn’t been much power play time to go around the past two games. The first period was played at a frantic pace and he was skating in quicksand for much of it; early in the first period, Morgan Rielly wanted to work a give and go coming off the offensive blue line and JVR was way too slow to recognize the play that was developing. He then had an opportunity to try to take the puck wide and drive the net later in the period and instead just danced around high in the zone and flipped a weak wrister on net (he did the same thing in Game 3).

In general, he doesn’t have any jump out there and he’s been caught flat-footed often. This is playoff time. It’s past time now to dig in, and he’s running out of time to change the story here.

8.  With Leo Komarov skating and Nazem Kadri back from suspension, the fourth line isn’t going to stay intact for Game 5, most likely, but it really should. They controlled over 90% of possession in their matchup against the Bruins’ fourth line plus the Bruins’ top defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. On a night like tonight, with the Marner line the only other line going, they really should’ve been the team’s third line as far as usage. Kapanen was under 10 minutes again, and Moore played just 6:50 total.

9.  Auston Matthews played nearly 21 minutes, while William Nylander played 18, and neither generated anything of note against the Bruins second and third lines. They just really didn’t have it tonight. Nylander couldn’t complete a pass or handle a puck without bobbling it for most of the night in what was one of his worst games of the season at a bad time to be off. I would’ve moved Kasperi Kapanen up for a shift earlier in the night when it was obvious Nylander wasn’t going just to see if it gave that line a bit of a shot in the arm. That said, it’s nitpicking at a certain point. The Leafs were playing well even when down 2-1 after 40 and were in a position to make a good push in the third. Your best players have to be your best players in the playoffs with the game on the line.

10.  The Leafs now have their backs against the wall, but they have shown they can play with this Bruins team. With a banged-up Bergeron and a rested Kadri back, angry and read to roll, the Leafs still have a chance to at least make this interesting, rather than go out with a whimper. Which is it going to be?


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts


Game In Six

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosts "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covers the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at alec.brownscombe@mapleleafshotstove.com.