Your game in ten:
1. This game was lost in the details for the Leafs. Their energy wasn’t the issue, and they generated enough quality scoring chances and possessed the puck enough to win the hockey game. For extended spells, they made the game uncomfortable on the Bruins and taxed their defense with their speed through the neutral zone and on the forecheck. It looked like they were going to take over the game numerous times — they were skating the Bruins into the ground at various points — only for a mistake to end up in the back of their net. The Leafs responded well both times after they fell behind by multiple goals; the problem was they couldn’t outpace their mistakes, ultimately.
2. It came down to a few things: Discipline, for one. In particular, the Auston Matthews penalty in front of the Bruins net in the second period was sloppy and untimely. The Connor Brown call was arguable — and perhaps a tad soft for a playoff game — although the officials did call two more ‘pick’ plays for interference penalties on the Bruins later in the period (those were more blatant, in my opinion, but there was some degree of consistency there at least). Staying out of the box was a big part of the puzzle for the Leafs in this series from the outset against a lethal Boston PP.
Their details on the penalty kill were also poor; on the first goal (and this has been a pattern for #24 and he’s been on for a few PP goals this series), Kasperi Kapanen took a bad route up high chasing the puck that allowed the Bruins to easily set up that one-timer play in the slot. They lost a series of puck battles and overcommitted on the pass on the second goal, leaving David Pastrnak, of all players, as wide open as could be.
There was also the matter of the face-off circle, where the Leafs won just 41% on the night.
3. Frederik Andersen was also human in this game. He gave them a chance when they gave up some grade-As early on by preventing Charlie Coyle from making it 3-0, but he also would like to come up with a save on that 5-2 goal from Zdeno Chara that put the game pretty far out of reach, even with the chances the Leafs were generating at the other end. While the Leafs were late closing down there and gave Chara too much time — Hyman was hurt on the play, Tavares was late to identify the situation — and it was screened, that’s one he needed to have.
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) April 18, 2019
4. Additionally, Jake Muzzin’s pinch prior to the first David Pastrnak goal was not a calculated gamble; two Leafs were already in the vicinity, Bergeron was winning the puck race, and he had Marchand and Pastrnak streaking in the neutral zone looking to break up ice.
Muzzin was solid otherwise, though, and his play in this series is encouraging; he’s been stepping up on guys hard and at the right times (usually), holding the line, halting cycles, and moving the puck well. With Gardiner far less than 100%, the acquisition has been massive for the Leafs — if Gardiner was playing 20+ minutes a game at even strength right now, it’d be a bad situation for the player and the team.
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) April 18, 2019
5. We’ll have to keep an eye out for Zach Hyman’s status heading into Game 5. It looked like he tweaked his knee with that awkward fall before the Chara goal. His involvement was limited afterward. He’s having a huge series for the Leafs. As Babcock has noted before, he’s not easily kept out of regular season games and seems to recover faster than most, so if he can play at all, you have to believe he’ll play.
6. Could certainly feel the absence of Nazem Kadri on a night when William Nylander was really feeling it and creating offense on shift after shift in the o-zone. You could pop Nylander up onto Matthews’ wing and shift Kapanen down no problem and not have to worry about line three. With Patrick Marleau the only option to center it, that move is basically taken out of the playbook. It’s encouraging nonetheless that Nylander’s legs were really going in this one and he had the puck on his stick a ton. That line was over 90% CF in the first period (three fantastic shifts to start the night) and finished over 80%.
7. 7:58 for Trevor Moore is technically an improvement over his average in this series but still far too low. The move at this point is pretty obvious for all to see and it’s just a matter of whether Babcock is going to pull the trigger on shifting Marleau down as we get into the late stages of this series.
That fourth line was excellent again for the Leafs, comprehensively overmatching the Boston fourth line, running the Bruins top pairing ragged a couple times, and setting up the next shift with an offensive zone start against tired Bruins lines. When Chara and McAvoy are getting no relief in their fourth-line matchup and are doubled over at the bench afterward, it’s got a major positive knock-on effect for the other matchups.
It’s also pretty inspiring stuff when you’ve got two sub 5’10 player (Ennis is closer to 5’6 than 5’10) battling Chara in the trenches and not backing down one bit. “What’s your excuse?”
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) April 17, 2019
8. Dash-three for the collective group of Hyman – Tavares – Marner / Muzzin – Zaitsev. Probably weren’t ever going to go a full series keeping a total lid on that Boston top line, so we’ll see how they respond now. It seems probable Pastrnak will go back to that line full time at home now.
9. The Bruins got their split and the Leafs got theirs. With home-ice advantage belonging to the Bruins, that gives them the slight edge at this stage in the series, in theory. That said, there is still a lot to like about three of the four Leafs’ efforts and how this series is shaping up at the moment in general, particularly with the Leafs’ depth lines tilting the ice for them as well as they did tonight along with Matthews’ involvement in the series. It’s also encouraging that the Leafs power play is finding its stride. The Bruins have looked behind the pace and have struggled to cope when the Leafs are playing fast, aggressive, and smart.
10. The series numbers through four games: 7 5v5 goals for, 7 against. 117 5v5 shots for, 117 shots against. Unblocked shot attempts sit at 166-162 Leafs. Overall shot attempts sit at 218-205 Leafs. Where the Leafs are separating themselves a little bit is in the 5v5 scoring chance numbers, which sit at 114-95, but they are losing the battle of the power plays 5-3 (5-4 with the Leafs’ shorthanded goal). There is a fair point to be made that the Leafs penalty kill has been a major hindrance on their playoff chances in three straight postseason runs now. Adjustments need to be made and soon.
All of the big guns are now “awake” in the series so to speak. Auston Matthews has three goals (his power play goal was ridiculous tonight; plucked out of mid-air). Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak both had multi-point nights, including Pastrnak’s first two goals of the series. It’s now a best of three. Game on.
Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts