After experiencing a thorough beatdown in Game 2 and receiving some bad news before the game about Nazem Kadri’s suspension for the remainder of the series, the Toronto Maple Leafs came up with an excellent response in Game 3 to take the series lead for the second time versus the Boston Bruins.

Your game in ten:

1.  As much as the Leafs will miss Nazem Kadri in general, I don’t think they’ll actually miss the aspect of having someone who engages with the Bruins in the post-whistle antics. Kadri’s edge in that regard is admirable, but it doesn’t come naturally to many of his teammates and he has almost no one who will join him in the fight.

Following his final act of the series — after Patrick Marleau got run into the stanchion and he went after Jake DeBrusk and committed his suspension-worthy offense — he got jumped by Zdeno Chara. Nylander, his teammate nearest by, uncomfortably shifted around in his skates and stared at the ice until it all blew over (that’s fine, it’s not his thing at all). Really, the only other Leaf players for whom the extracurriculars come somewhat naturally are Zach Hyman and Jake Muzzin.

Anthony made a good point in a prior notebook that the Leafs were kind of in this ‘in-between’ space where they were half engaging in the post-whistle antics but also looking to the refs for help quite a bit. Tonight, in addition to the refs making a clear effort to call more penalties to keep a lid on the proceedings, the Leafs just stuck to playing hard between the whistles and didn’t drift from their comfort zone. That’s probably for the best. It’s advantage Bruins when the sideshows kick off.

2.  Speaking of Jake Muzzin, really liked his game tonight. Part of the reason I had a soft spot for Roman Polak wasn’t because he was a particularly good defenseman; it was just that the Leafs clearly lacked an element that he provided on the blue line. Muzzin can provide the same punishing style of defense and do it against the opposing team’s top six while logging important minutes. Muzzin dropped Pastrnak three times in this game and was solid moving the puck.

In general, getting constant licks in on Pastrnak seemed to be part of the gameplan tonight; Morgan Rielly, too, was giving Pastrnak (as well as DeBrusk) some hits and extra shots while Hyman also laid him out in the neutral zone. Pastrnak was really running around on the Leafs in Game 2 and he’s not a tough enough guy for the Leafs to stand for that. The Leafs put him on his back a few times in this game and he looked like he was feeling the ill-effects. Those investments add up over a long series. Overall, the between-the-whistles physical response was quite good from the Leafs.

A nod to Zach Hyman‘s showing in that respect, too:

3.  Morgan Rielly had an understated physical game also with some really sturdy moments in his one-on-ones as well as a few low-key big hits (He is often overlooked as one of the strongest physical specimens on the team). This was probably his most active game so far in terms of jumping up offensively as well, although he is still showing a little more restraint in the playoffs compared to the regular season; he wants to push the play without getting himself in trouble and he has picked his spots well (a good balance of green light/red light). Rielly finished the night with a game-leading six shots on goal.

4.  John Tavares has been exactly as advertised as far as providing a credible Bergeron-matchup center who can control the middle of the ice effectively and go toe-to-toe with him in the faceoff circle (63% head-to-head). When Babcock mentions that Tavares has improved defensively this year — something he’s said multiple times in the last few months — a lot of it is to do with how he is tracking back through the neutral zone in addition to improved in-zone defensive positioning and reads (He’s also helped by having a winger as responsible defensively as Mitch Marner, relieving some of the pressure to always be first man back).

The Bruins’ top line loves to look for the play where they switch the puck and find the far-side streaking forward through the neutral zone, and Tavares does an excellent job here of staying above Bergeron and chipping the puck back into an area where the Leafs can get right back on offense.

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More of his work in that Bergeron matchup:

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That was a really slick pass in tight for the Andreas Johnsson 3-1 power play goal as well (incredible hands in tight). This is what they paid him for.

5.  Like in Game 1, the Leafs fourth line was a catalyst in this game despite limited minutes and it was again spearheaded by Trevor Moore. Marlies fans won’t be at all surprised by the play of Moore so far in this series — he really cemented himself as a player that elevates his game at postseason time in their Calder Cup run; second and third efforts are in his DNA and he plays with a lot of courage in addition to the pace and skillset he brings to the table. Tonight’s performance again showed what a good fourth line can do in the playoffs when the other lines play each other (mostly) even at 5v5.

In addition to Moore’s goal, this was a notable shift where they pinned in the Bruins top line for a spell:

6.  On the Moore goal, Tyler Ennis made body contact on the defenseman, lost the first puck battle, checked, re-checked, and was able to turn the puck back over. Those were the extra efforts we saw a lot from him in the regular season and he was a welcome addition back to the lineup tonight.

It’s not going to happen, but I’d personally like to see Ennis tried up next to Nylander for a few shifts; Brown and Marleau don’t offer much as far as linemates for Nylander to make skilled plays with in open ice. Moore has probably earned the look first over Ennis and would bring a different dynamic as well if moved up on the left side, but again, I don’t expect to see it any time soon.

The Nylander line was the only one notably underwater for the Leafs in this game with a 33% CF on the night.

7.  It was like a switch flipped for Andreas Johnsson once he picked up that power play assist on the Auston Matthews 2-1 goal. He had struggled in the series up to that point and wasn’t much better in the first period tonight (he was really fighting it trying to complete plays). It’s kind of been the story of Johnsson’s season in a way — he’s really ridden the rollercoaster of highs and lows confidence-wise in his first full year in the league. At times, you had to check the game sheet after the final buzzer to determine if he had played that night; in January, he had a run of three straight games without a shot on goal and played under 10 minutes twice. He ended that shot-less slump by breaking out for a four-point game against Philadelphia.

Kudos to him for jumping on the opportunity in Kadri’s absence by taking over as the man in the middle on the power play; he’s pretty good there when he’s on his game as far as slipping through the cracks and getting under the branches in front. His finish for the 3-2 (eventual game-winner) was extremely well taken.

8.  Three starts, three superb games from Frederik Andersen. This is a short and simple point, but it’s the single biggest key to the series from the Leafs perspective and so far, so good. He’s significantly outplayed his body of work at this time last series through three games. Biggest save of the night was the point-blank one on David Krejci with three minutes remaining.

9.  Just when you thought one player couldn’t provide much more over all-situations than Mitch Marner already was for the Leafs, he goes and lays out two huge shot blocks in the final moments of a one-goal game to secure a huge playoff win. You can’t throw the comparison around lightly in this city, but the shades of #93 are undeniable.

10.  Overall, Mike Babcock’s assessment after the game was a good one: This was the first game in the series in which both teams played well. There was a great pace to the game and there was very little space out there as both teams were sharp in their execution. That the Leafs found a way to win by way of their fourth line and the power play, while holding their own in the big matchups, is a really good sign. So too is Auston Matthews getting the playoff monkey off his back after going six straight postseason appearances without scoring (along with just one assist). The Leafs now have a golden opportunity to hold serve at home, take a stranglehold on the series, and give themselves two opportunities — both in Boston and then back at home — to wrap up the series.


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins, Game 3


Game Highlights

With notes from Declan Kerin