The Toronto Maple Leafs lived to fight another day.

Amidst all the turmoil and vitriol hurled their way, the Leafs went into Boston, dug in, played a hell of a game, and got a deserved win. 

Joseph Woll was outstanding. Matthew Knies was excellent all game. Mitch Marner produced his best performance of the series, and William Nylander grew into the game as it went along. 

Your game in 10:

1.   The Leafs got off to a really good start to this game—easily their best of the series. Not only did they apply pressure—which they did in the first two games in Boston as well—but they also avoided the silly brain cramps—the needless pinches and soft giveaways—while applying pressure.

In particular, the Tyler Bertuzzi Max DomiMitch Marner line came out flying. It was a lost story in a Game 4 that was largely over after 40 minutes, but they were pretty good in the third period and carried it through to this game. They generated a really good first shift, as Marner led the cycle and set up Simon Benoit for a good shot with Bertuzzi in front. Marner set up Bertuzzi for another chance in front as well.

The Leafs started stringing a few good shifts together, and after a strong shift by the Tavares line, the Bruins iced it, so out came the Domi line. Domi won the faceoff, Bertuzzi went to the net, and Marner teed up McCabe for a one-timer that found its way through traffic and into the corner of the net.

It was a simple goal that the Leafs need more of: a point shot, traffic, getting it through, and winning battles in front. We said in the mid-series notebook that the Leafs needed some offense from McCabe, who produced a career-high eight goals and 28 points in the regular season. The team counts on him to chip in. He came through with the 1-0 goal in a do-or-die Game 5.

This game was also the result of a faceoff win, and by this point in the game, it was the Leafs’ sixth straight draw win to start the night. The Leafs were controlling the play and the tempo throughout the opening period.

2.   After the 1-0 goal, the game settled in a bit, but the Leafs did create a golden opportunity to extend their lead as Domi broke in on a clear 2v1 with Marner. Everyone in the entire arena knew Domi was going to try to pass—he slowed down and looked for it— and when he was pressured, he missed the pass. The shot was there for a solid few seconds, and Domi refused to take it, which has also been the case for most of the season.  The Leafs generally controlled play, but they couldn’t find the second goal.

Of course, the Bruins created one chance and scored. There was a bit of a miscommunication between Joseph Woll and Simon Benoit behind the net, and then the issue was made significantly worse by Benoit thinking that he could make a pass up the middle on his backhand while under pressure. Yes, it was a bad bounce but also a bad process. There is no world in which Benoit should be attempting that pass. From there, it bounced right to Frederic, who buried it. It’s a tough break for the Leafs, who were otherwise good in the first period.

3.    How good were the Leafs in the first? They outshot the Bruins 12-2 and hemmed in the Bruins for large stretches of the period. To finish the period tied 1-1 was a harsh outcome. They generated 30 shot attempts and were super simple in their approach, funneling pucks to the net, generating traffic, winning battles on the wall, and driving pucks to the middle of the ice. Mitch Marner was easily the best player on the ice, picking up an assist and winning a battle versus Marchand that led to a Bruins penalty.

Unfortunately, the Toronto power play was yet again a problem. They are completely lost on it at this point. They got all of one shot, which came off the rush. The group has been unable to simply set up, get in their formation, and start snapping the puck around looking for advantages. They’re repeatedly attempting to break into the zone using John Tavares on the wall, where he routinely makes the wrong decision with the puck.

At the end of the period, Bertuzzi centered a puck to Marner from behind the net, but the puck was bouncing and handcuffed him, so he couldn’t make contact. It was a good opportunity to end the period but a tough bounce for Marner.

4.   After such a good first period, the game ended at 1-1, and you worried about what it would mean for the rest of the game. Early in the second period, when the Bruins went to a power play after William Nylander took down McAvoy, it was white-knuckle time.

Refreshingly, the Leafs manufactured an excellent kill. They swarmed in numbers and were tight in the neutral zone, blocking the Bruins’ entry attempts. As the penalty ended, Calle Jarnkrok won a battle and got it back to Joel Edmundson, who ripped a cross-ice stretch pass to Nylander, who was in all alone. Nylander tried to flick it short-side over the shoulder and hit the crossbar. After the puck went the other way, Jarnkrok kept working and drew a penalty.

It was another chance for the Leafs’ power play to break through, and they couldn’t do it. The second power play was much better, highlighted by a Rielly one-timer chance on a cross-ice play, but Rielly didn’t place it well, and Swayman made the post-to-post save. It was the first time in a few games that the Leafs truly controlled a power play and hemmed in the Bruins, but they couldn’t bury it, and Boston gathered some momentum off of the kill.

Right afterward, Jake McCabe and Timothy Liljegren got stuck on the ice, and Liljegren had a nearly three-minute shift as he was pinned deep. Joseph Woll made a great toe save and stopped Brazeau in all alone. It was the kind of big save the Leafs were dying for in the past few games.

The Leafs generated a good response afterward, as Domi caused a turnover and set up Marner in the high slot; the initial shot didn’t make it through cleanly, but Bertuzzi was on the doorstep and couldn’t bury it. Soon after, William Nylander generated a great shift—his first real dominant one of the series—and set up Joel Edmundson for a one-timer after Nylander broke Marchand’s ankles, but Edmundson didn’t get a good shot off.

5.   The first half of the middle frame featured some good chances and some real back-and-forth play, but the second half of the period was a lot tamer, and the play evened out until the final few minutes. Domi took a shot in the high slot that deflected and trickled by Swayman, who was down and out. A Bruin shot deflected right to DeBrusk in the middle of the slot, where he was all alone but was late to react on the bouncing puck and couldn’t bear down despite a wide-open net.

In the final minute of the period, the Leafs came really close. William Nylander’s game started to pick up after his penalty, and in the final minute, he dropped his shoulder and won a huge battle against Lindholm in the corner of the Bruins’ zone to regain possession. After Knies won a battle and tried to steamroll to the net, chaos broke out as the Leafs tried jamming away at the loose puck. 

Bruins and Leafs started pairing up in the scrum, and after Pastrnak started swinging at Rielly, Knies jumped in to offer Pastrnak a fight invitation (which was declined). That was a quietly important moment in the game for me — courage is contagious. Knies didn’t just not back down; he openly challenged Pastrnak, and the Bruins backed down on him. The Leafs really fought for one another and were making it very clear that they were here to battle and compete.

It’s easy to forget that Knies is only 21; he’s had a really promising season and has flashed power-forward potential this season. Once he fills out his body and gains more confidence in the league, he will be a real problem for the opposition if he keeps leaning into his mean streak.

6.   After all of the nonsense in front, the Leafs rightfully got a power play out of it, giving them an opportunity to finally break through and take the lead early in the third period. They created one real chance: a Marner pass from behind the goal line to Morgan Rielly, who was all alone at the top of the circle and stepped into a one-timer, but he didn’t exactly pick a corner on it.

The Bruins built some life off of the kill and started making a push. Brad Marchand missed a chance in front due to some disruption from Matthew Knies‘ back check. Charlie Coyle hit the crossbar off the rush later in the period, and most importantly, Joseph Woll made arguably the save of the series on Trent Frederic, who hung by the Leafs’ net and got in all alone for a chance that Woll stretched post-to-post to stop. It was a huge moment and seemed to settle the game down for Toronto.

7.   Later in the third period, the game went to four-on-four, where Pontus Holmberg and Marchand battled in the Leafs’ zone, and Holmberg did not back down. Somewhat similar to Knies, Holmberg did not back down and again, courage is contagious. They are not backing down when being confronted and they will not be intimidated. Holmberg has had a promising showing in this playoff series, even though he hasn’t produced. He’s taking a solid regular shift and does not look out of place at center, which is a quietly nice development.

During the four-on-four, the Bruins showed no real interest making a push offensively and were very conservative with the puck. The Tavares – Nylander duo was in tough, and Domi – Marner couldn’t get anything going.

As the period went along, the Leafs shortened their bench and essentially ran the Domi line, the Tavares line, and a line with Dewar – Kampf – Jarnkrok. They were clearly banking on one of those two lines scoring, and with just under five minutes left, they got their big chance.

Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi went on a 2v1 from center ice, but Domi did not look at the goalie once. He skated down and stared at Bertuzzi, who Carlo was clearly taking away, and eventually saucered a pass to him anyway. It did get through and Bertuzzi got a shot off, but Bertuzzi is not Stamkos or Matthews. The shot hit the center chest.

Domi could have walked in for a breakaway. He needs to shoot the puck and at least make the defender respect the possibility. The worst part of all: Domi actually owns a good shot!

8.   Similarly, Mitch Marner created a chance by going across the top of the circle with time and space, and he was looking pass the whole time. He had a shooting lane—and he owns a good shot as well—but he skated right across and eventually tried a cross-ice pass to Calle Jarnkrok, who was open and did get it through, but again, this isn’t Stamkos. Jarnkrok missed the puck.

The Leafs created chances in prime areas and overpassed at times. I’m not sure if they were getting psyched out by Swayman or what the deal was, but they have to shoot to score, and there were at least a few chances that the Leafs regretted passing up in this one, even though they did control play territorially.

9.   With the new lines, the matchups were jumbled again. The Coyle line went up against the Max Domi line, primarily with McAvoy on the ice, which was a bit of a wrinkle because it was generally Lindholm and Carlo against Matthews. Carlo’s primary matchup was John Tavares, who once again saw a lot of the Pastrnak line. Pontus Holmberg went up against the Frederic line, but David Kampf started cutting into that matchup as the game went along.

The matchups generally went well for the Leafs, and as has been the case all series, you watch the matchups and wonder, “Hey, if the Leafs had all of their stars in the lineup, how would this go?” One thing the Leafs did well in this game, helping them win those matchups, is simplify more: more pucks in deep, more pucks funneled to the net, and tons of traffic in front. They have done this all season when missing a star — they simplify. I wish they did more of it when in full health.

Rather quietly, Timothy Liljegren returned to the lineup and was third among Leafs defensemen in ice time. He was rock solid moving the puck, while Morgan Rielly played a monster 26:19. At forward, William Nylander played over 22 minutes and put five shots on net. The Leafs reinserted Conor Dewar, who played over 12 minutes and was in the Leafs’ top nine when they shortened the bench; he should not come out of the lineup again. Domi gave the Leafs nearly 19 good minutes at center ice. Again, you’d really like to see this team get healthy and put their full lines together. 

10.   The first few shifts of overtime were terrifying as Joseph Woll made a massive kick save on Coyle in the slot, and the Bruins’ forecheck got to the Leafs. As is usually the case when a team’s goalie makes a huge save one way, they went down the ice and scored on their only chance.

Inserting Matt Grzelcyk back into the lineup was a curious decision by Jim Montgomery before the game. He is skilled and fast, but he is small and can be run off of pucks on the forecheck. On the game-winner, John Tavares saw Grzelcyk, and his eyes widened. He drove wide and dropped his shoulder, and the smaller Grzelcyk couldn’t do much to stop him. Tavares didn’t create a great chance off of it, but he was able to drive the net, and Knies — coming in fresh off the bench — drove the net hard for the rebound. Knies made a great net drive for a goal earlier in the series in Toronto, and here he was again, strong on his stick and banging home the rebound.

The Leafs deserved this win tonight. Back to Toronto, we go.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts