For the first time all season, this felt like a nice win by a good team.

No excuses, no weak opponent, and no Leafs controversies (made up or otherwise). Of course, it wouldn’t be a Leafs game without *something* to wring our hands about, and the Ilya Samsonov injury genuinely puts a damper on things. He was off to a great start and was taking over the net. Let’s hope the injury isn’t too serious.

Even still, the Leafs bolted the game down and ground out a 2-1 win against a very good Bruins team. Full marks for that.

Your game in 10:

1.    It was a fairly even start to the game between two good teams. By the end of the period, Natural Stat Trick recorded the 5v5 corsi at 17-16 for the Leafs and scoring chances at 8-7 for the Bruins. There were a few chances for each team, including a Trent Frederic chance in the slot that John Tavares deflected wide.  We’ve seen this fairly often from the Leafs over the years — there is a bit of a feeling-out process that they go through in games, particularly bigger ones.

I thought Timothy Liljegren‘s return made a world of a difference. Another quality righthanded defenseman makes the game easier, and maybe for the first time this season, the Leafs looked like they had a blue line where players were properly slotted in the right spots.

2.    Auston Matthews opened the scoring this one, and don’t look now, but he has scored in four of the last five games. The streak everyone knew was going to happen and was waiting for is now happening.

He was the first one in on the forecheck for this goal, and while the puck was kept in, Michael Bunting did the dirty work below the goal line to win a battle and then kick the puck free to Matthews for a bit of a bad goal, but they all count.

This is what Bunting has to do on this line. It’s not skilled plays, antics, or excessively chasing after calls. It’s getting in on the forecheck, winning battles, and getting the puck to the two stars he plays with so that they can do their thing.

3.   Honestly, it felt like the Leafs were cruising in this game up 1-0. The first period was fairly even, and they came out to start the second in good shape. John Tavares hit the post off the rush early before Jake Zboril lugged the puck up ice, appeared to turn the puck over, and the Leafs were about to have a 2v1 with Tavares and William Nylander starting from their own blue line. Instead, the refs called a slashing penalty.

Tavares did whack his stick, but at the same time, we have seen a lot worse go uncalled, and he didn’t break the stick. I’m not sure they call it if there wasn’t an immediate 2v1 going the other way.

The slash was, in retrospect, unnecessary as Alex Kerfoot poked the puck free and it seemed he would have regardless of the slash.

4.   The Leafs then went to the penalty kill, where it went from bad to worse. Brad Marchand caught TJ Brodie flat-footed and beat him wide before cutting back in for a scoring chance. Instead, Brodie hauled him down.

This one was definitely a penalty. You can debate if it was worthy of a penalty shot — was it a clear-cut breakaway? I didn’t think it was, but even if the penalty was given, Boston would have had a lengthy 5v3 to score.

Marchand, unsurprisingly, converted by freezing Ilya Samsonov hard before taking his time, pulling it backhand, and finishing.

5.   That was a rough few minutes for the Leafs all-around, but credit to them for righting the ship. They killed off the rest of the power play, which was almost a full power play to boot (there was 1:40 left). Boston did have a few chances even when 5v5 resumed, but the Leafs steadied their game.

The fourth line had a good cycle line and Denis Malgin hit the post. On the shift, Zach Aston-Reese did some good work along the boards to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Aston-Reese isn’t flashy and he’s not going to look good against bottom feeders who are retreating and playing defense all night, but against better teams, he serves a purpose and has a role. As the season wears on and the games tighten up, I think fans will grow in their appreciation for what ZAR brings to the table.

6.   After the Bruins scored on a penalty shot while the Leafs were killing a penalty, you knew Toronto would be getting the next penalty in the game. They did, and the Leafs capitalized.

Auston Matthews notched his second of the night and did well to stop in front of the net rather than driving by. But this goal was all William Nylander. He weaved through the neutral zone before taking Hampus Lindholm wide, going around the net, and finding the perfect time to slip a pass to the slot for a tap-in.  One second sooner or later, the pass might not make it through. Nylander’s great wheels and patience created an easy goal.

Mitch Marner also deserves a stick tap on the goal. Shortly before the power play, his great backcheck disrupted David Pastrnak in front of the net with Ilya Samsonov in a vulnerable spot.

7.    You would never know that Mark Giordano is the oldest player in the league by the way he is involved in all aspects of the game, including the rough stuff. Against the Flyers, he came jumping into the end-of-game scrum, no questions asked. In this one, he was going at it with Taylor Hall. He and Hall got into a shoving match, and when Giordano was down, Hall gave him a bit of a cheap shot. It appeared that Giordano challenged him to a fight after, but Hall declined.

It’s nice to see the pushback, but it would be nice to see the most senior player in the league not have to be the one standing up for himself and others all the time.  It was a missed call by the refs, and I don’t know if it impacted them calling the crosscheck on Michael Bunting moments later, but it’s the type of thing we’ve seen the Bruins get away with for decades. They called that one.

Every player on the team seems to invoke an argument of some sort between fans of the team, but I think everyone is in agreement that Giordano is awesome. No slander allowed.

8.   The third period started with a bit of stunning news as Ilya Samsonov was ruled out for the game with a knee injury. The Leafs were on a power play, though, so they had a chance to pad the lead.

I don’t think it’s unfair to talk about power plays of years past because it’s quite literally the same five players that have been on the top unit for three-plus years. They’ve struggled down the stretch of every season and into the playoffs, and one of my big issues with it has been their inability to turn it up in critical times.

They had their third-string goalie airdropped into the net in a 2-1 game, they’re at home, and they had a power play to start the period. There was no urgency. They were then get gifted a second straight power play right after by a terrible Pavel Zacha decision and again created practically nothing.

Between the two power plays, the best chance was a shorthanded one by the Bruins where Brandon Carlo whiffed on a puck right in front (that likely would have been a goal if he made any contact with the puck).

9.   It was then the Bruins’ turn for back-to-back power plays. The Leafs’ pregame scout of the Bruins’ PP was on it for this one. It was the unsung hero of this game.

The Bruins’ breakout was continually stifled throughout the game, and even when they did set it up, the Leafs’ sticks were in the right lanes blocking passes all night. David Kampf, Alex Kerfoot, and Mitch Marner were anticipating routes and broke up a number of plays by having their stick’s in the right spots. They knew what Boston was looking to do and prevented their best reads.

Boston gets credit for a power-play goal in this game because of the penalty shot, but otherwise, the Leafs’ penalty kill was really sharp — especially in front of a cold goalie with the game on the line.

10.   The Leafs closed out the game with some good old-fashioned defense. The Bruins made an inevitable push, and while they generated a few chances, they really didn’t make Erik Kallgren make any significant saves.

The Leafs clogged up shooting lanes and did to Boston what a lot of teams have done to them so far: packed the house, made them play on the perimeter, and took away everything on the inside. It was a nice change of pace to see the Leafs be the ones frustrating the other team in that sense.

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts