“We are overdue to have a really solid 60-minute effort on home ice.”
– Sheldon Keefe
Entering Game 5, the Maple Leafs are also overdue to break an inordinately long streak of scoring exactly two goals per game in the playoffs.
#LeafsForever have scored exactly 2 goals in 6 straight games. 11 different players have scored their 12 goals in that span.
This is their first streak of 6 straight games scoring 2 or fewer goals since 2011-12.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 12, 2023
A lot of the attention in this regard is fixed on Auston Matthews, who after finishing the Tampa series on a four-game goal-scoring streak with five goals on 18 shots, has zero goals on 18 shots in the first four games of this series. John Tavares is also sitting on zero goals on his last 17 shots on goal, a number of them point-blank grade-A scoring chances.
There was a lot to like — and a lot worthy of replication — about the Game 4 effort from the Maple Leafs; in a win-or-die scenario with major implications for the franchise, they were detailed and highly committed defensively, established more of their own forecheck game, imposed a level of control over the game flow/pace of play, and Mitch Marner and William Nylander ended their series goal-scoring droughts. With their season on the line again tonight, it would be a perfect time for the other two in the core four to break through tonight.
The Maple Leafs are not expected to make any lineup changes, including in net, where Joseph Woll will look to build on a steely 24-save performance in his first-ever NHL playoff start.
In an effort to reverse their downturn in home form in the playoffs (1-4), the Leafs went to the length of checking the team into a local hotel after returning from Florida yesterday rather than allowing the players to disperse to their respective homes. Let’s hope it wasn’t their final checkout of the year.
Keys to Game 5
via Anthony Petrielli
– This is a tougher game to get a read on. The Leafs should feel better about themselves, but we can also expect Florida to play better. It’s really important that Leafs continue to dictate the pace and don’t allow the game to open up. Each team’s winning formula is clear. Who breaks?
– There was a lot of desperation in Game 4, and the Leafs ground out a win defensively to stay alive, but it feels like this run of six straight games of scoring two goals has to end. The defense is passing up too many shot opportunities and the Leafs need to get to the net more.
– It appeared that the matchups in Florida settled into Matthews vs. Barkov, Tkachuk vs. O’Reilly, and Tavares vs. Lundell. Both teams might be happy with it, but the table is set for Tavares and Nylander to produce.
– The Leafs need to free up Matthews a bit, but they also need more from him. There are long spells where we have to look for him on the ice.
– The Leafs clogged up the neutral zone and slowed up Florida’s forecheck really well in Game 4. The Leafs allowed nothing on the inside and kept it simple (when in doubt, clear it out). The defensive blueprint is there. This style requires spreading out the TOI among 11 forwards vs. loading up Marner and Matthews.
– It’s important that the Leafs carry over and channel the emotions from the end of Game 4.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on Auston Matthews’ search for his first goal of the series:
The more shots that he gets, for each one of them, you feel like it is going to go for him.
He has had a lot of opportunities — some really clean, especially early in the series. Not as many on the road, but obviously, that crossbar that he hit early in Game 3, you feel like that is the one. Not only would it have set the tone early in the game, but also for him to start the game that way… It didn’t fall.
The real key, for any of our players no matter what they are going through, is to just focus on their game shift-to-shift with the little habits and the things that we need them to be doing defensively. The chances are going to continue to come.
As a score, we need to score one more goal than the opposition. That is really where the focus has to be.
Keefe on whether Luke Schenn’s quality of play in the playoffs has been a pleasant surprise:
He hasn’t surprised me with the leadership and intangibles that he brought. We were really confident he would be able to bring that. In his career, he has really shown that he can bring that to any team that he has been on.
He did show at different times through the regular season the ability to make the play and play with poise on the breakout with a great first pass. But the ability to take on the minutes and handle the pace of the playoffs has really been remarkable and huge for us.
We shook our D pairs up the other night, but keeping Rielly and Schenn together was a really important thing for us. That is the one thing that has been very consistent in both series. To have that solidified is really great for us.
Keefe on the team’s 1-4 record on home ice in the postseason:
We have a mixed bag on home ice in the playoffs. We’ve probably had two of the best games we’ve played in the playoffs on home ice. In Game 2s of both series, I thought we were really good. We didn’t get on the right side of the game in Game 2 against Florida, but in terms of our execution, our pace offensively, and the chances that we generated, it is the best we have looked offensively in both games.
We have played really well at different times. In Game 5 against Tampa, that one could go either way. It has been a mixed bag, but we are overdue to have a really solid 60-minute effort on home ice.
Keefe on the keys to solving Sergei Bobrovsky more than twice in a game:
We just have to continue to challenge him.
In the two road games, aside from Game 3 in that first 5-10 minutes where we had five odd-man rushes generated off of our breakout, I wouldn’t say there has been a ton of offense in the last couple of games. Florida has defended extremely well and made it harder for us there.
We want to continue to test him and not get shy in terms of shooting, challenging that way, and continuing to play with pace. I thought we had a really strong forecheck last game — our best of the series for sure. It was probably the best of the playoffs in terms of the ability to put pressure on the defense and get pucks back that way.
The more time we can spend in their zone, we saw the goal that Marner scored. That is a goal that is earned over multiple shifts in terms of wearing down their defense and having to tire out the goaltender, too.
That is more of the process-related stuff that I think we did at times really well against Tampa. We haven’t been able to get to that as much. Part of that has been Florida, how they have defended against us, and how they have played on offense themselves. But the other night is more of an indication of what we think we are capable of.
We have to start it all over again here tonight.
Paul Maurice on the challenge of getting shots through against the Leafs in Game 4:
Firstly, you credit the other team. They worked hard to get into those lanes. They were not as aggressive on the way out. It was shot lane first.
For years, that is the New York Islanders, for a comparison. They run the same switch-off d-zone coverage, which means you are going to get some point shots. They are really good shot blockers.
The second thing is that our feet weren’t moving when we were playing with the puck. That is the driver, by far.
Maurice on the fairly low-scoring series to date:
If you can skate, you can defend. Both teams skate. Both teams defend.
The guys on either team that wouldn’t be considered fast are really smart. Pick one of Tavares, O’Reilly, or Reinhart — phenomenal defensive IQs, right? All can kill penalties if they need to. Smart guys. But the fast guys, they can check.
Maurice on how much his team knows about Joseph Woll:
Not as much as we would’ve liked. You know what? Good on him. The young man came into a very intense situation and looked calm in the net.
We felt we helped that happen. We were on the perimeter. We were almost five minutes off of our offensive-zone time from the game prior. That is something that we feel we can remedy.
Maurice on the Barkov vs. Matthews matchup:
I think both the Barkov and Matthews lines have done a smart job of pushing the envelope when they can and not cheating the game.
Those guys are going to make plays. There is enough speed. They are going to get zone time. They are going to get the D moving in the offensive zone. They make good inside plays.
From the bench level, the game just goes faster. You can feel it and see it. It gets up and down the ice really quickly.
Maurice on the play of the Tkachuk line of late:
If I didn’t like their line last game, I would attribute that to all four [lines] having the same kind of thing going. I thought we played with the puck too much while our feet were standing still. That is the simple version of what I saw from the bench and when I watched the game again.
Those guys are better when Benny is rolling through the middle and they are on the puck with their feet first. When they get it, they don’t need a map. They know where it is.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#19 Calle Järnkrok – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#58 Michael Bunting – #90 Ryan O’Reilly – #52 Noel Acciari
#64 David Kämpf – #28 Sam Lafferty
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Luke Schenn
#78 TJ Brodie – #3 Justin Holl
#22 Jake McCabe – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#55 Mark Giordano
Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#30 Matt Murray
Scratched: Zach Aston-Reese, Wayne Simmonds
Injured: Ilya Samsonov, Matthew Knies, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin
Florida Panthers Projected Lines
#23 Carter Verhaeghe – #16 Aleksander Barkov – #10 Anthony Duclair
#21 Nick Cousins – #9 Sam Bennett – #19 Matthew Tkachuk
#27 Eetu Luostarinen – #15 Anton Lundell – #13 Sam Reinhart
#6 Colin White – #15 Eric Staal – #22 Zac Dalpe
#42 Gustav Forsling – #5 Aaron Ekblad
#18 Marc Staal – #62 Brandon Montour
#28 Josh Mahura – #7 Radko Gudas
#72 Sergei Bobrovsky
#34 Alex Lyon
Injured: Spencer Knight, Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Lomberg