Joffrey Lupul opened the scoring, getting open on the weak side of the net for a great fake-shot-slap-pass from Jake Gardiner. Nazem Kadri springs Nikolai Kulemin with a beautiful breakaway pass, who does a little shuffle and goes bar-down on Rask. Milan Lucic gets behind the Leafs' "defense" and beats Reimer five-hole, and Douglas Hamilton beats Gardiner to the puck, and passes it out to Patrice Bergeron, who has a tiny 1-on-0 and beats James Reimer short side. Boston won in the skills competition, having never held the lead during the actual hockey game.
Your Game In Six
It was the best of powerplays, it was the worst of powerplays. Gardiner-to-Lupul for the first goal was beautiful, but the Leafs spent far too much of their two other power plays hemmed in their own zone. The PK looked pretty good, and Carlyle played for the shootout, deploying Tyler "Faceoffs" Bozak and Jay McClement for much of the 4v4 (Note: Leafer has corrected me - McClement only got the opening shift). The truth is that if you had told me last week that the Leafs would get three out of four points against the Bruins this week, I would've laughed at you, so I'll take the points ugly or not.
Bozak played poorly again tonight, except he continues to be the only Leaf who can convert in the shootout. I really wouldn't mind him in a sheltered third line role, but Carlyle would rather have scoring depth than a positive-possession first line. I promised Leafer that I'd call JVR out for his poor performance as of late - I can barely remember the last time he looked dangerous with the puck on his stick - but was surprised to find that despite his 6 game goalless drought, he has 7 points in his last 11 games. He's still getting shots on net, so this is probably a little what regression looks like for him, and probably a bit of the "go to the net and create space" coaching, which I don't mind.
Dion Phaneuf had some problems - most notably covering the empty slot instead of taking away the pass on Bergeron's goal - but holy crap, he played 28 minutes of ice time against the Boston Bruins. He saw more ice time against his second-most-on-ice-opposition center than Franson saw against his highest. I mean shit, he was a couple minutes away from spending more time on ice than off it. I'm tempted to say that this was way too much ice time for Phaneuf - or any defenseman, really - but Cody Franson and Mike Kostka, the other RD options, looked terrible tonight. Franson got absolutely pylon'd on the Lucic goal, and Kostka takes a solid 45 seconds to process "I really shouldn't be holding the puck right now." Phaneuf didn't have a stellar night by any means, but he'll catch undue flack for this game.
Speaking of deployment, Gardiner made some strong offensive plays, including a shoulda-been to Tyler Bozak, who failed to get stick on puck, but he was hemmed in his own zone and was accountable for letting Douglas Hamilton get away with the puck on the Bergeron goal. Boy, Randy Carlyle was spot on about his defensive short comings. Wait just a second: Gardiner, who Carlyle believes has some defensive deficiencies, was on ice for 7 more defensive zone starts than offensive. Carlyle was defensively leaning on a player he has identified as defensively weak. What the hell? I'd love for someone to ask Carlyle about his deployment for Gardiner tonight - he basically said "I don't think Gardiner can swim" and threw him in a shark infested pool.
The truth is that the Leafs have no answer for Boston's forecheck. If I had a dollar for every time the Leafs' defensemen went from ready for a breakout to pinning the puck up against the boards, begging for support, I'd do something dumb with the money - maybe place a bet on the Leafs to win next game against Boston. It's entirely a defensive problem, and mostly a personnel and deployment issue (if I were a better hockey analyst, I'm sure i could find some systems problems, too).
Reimer went 19-for-21 at even strength, bringing his two-game ES SVP against the heavy-possession Boston Bruins to 0.926 (this would be tied for 6th best in the league, if it were a season total). This is while the Leafs' netminders see more ES shots against per sixty minutes of ES play than any other team in the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs do not have a goaltending problem. The Toronto Maple Leafs do not need to "have interest" in an old, sub-900 goalie, let alone pay assets for one. While his abilities are far from set in stone, the Leafs gambled on Reimer - a position I will admit I was against in the offseason - and won. I'll be thoroughly unhappy if the Leafs burn significant assets and cap on a backup goalie and give him the GP to "win the starting position," unless Scrivens has some great return lined up or there's a hell of a pot sweetener.
The Leafs have a problem on defense. The Leafs need a better defender. Unless Kiprusoff and Luongo play right D, they aren't going to improve the Leafs where they need it most - assuming they improve the Leafs at all. The good news? This is the problem we predicted throughout the lockout. The bad news? This is the problem we predicted throughout the lockout, and it still hasn't been addressed.
The Leafs pull a dreaded Tuesday-night-against-the-south-east for the second half of this back to back, but it's against the last-place Florida Panthers. We might expect Phaneuf to take a reduced role, but with Carlyle's emphasis on conditioning, who knows what Dion will see.