Oh my gosh, I don't even know where to start. The beginning, right - I keep jumping ahead to the part where THE LEAFS WON A PLAYOFF GAME. Nathan Horton opened the scoring when the puck deflected off his skate while stopping, which was ruled not to be a distinct kicking motion. The Leafs would take the lead on a Lupul PPG and a Lupul backhander, with assists on both from noted Press Box Heroes Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin. Now here's my favorite part: Phil Kessel scores the game winning goal on a breakaway, with Nazem Kadri delivering one of the most beautiful set-up passes I've seen all year. Boychuk would keep it a game at 3-2, which left Leafs fans with no security, but JVR would score an insurance goal to lock up the Leafs' first playoff win.
The Game in Six
I need to say this up front: Last night was the best game Randy Carlyle has coached as bench boss of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lines were creative - Kessel was centered by both Kadri and Bozak - deployment was strong - Kessel started 8 more times in the offensive zone than defensive - and usage was good: of Kessel's 30 shifts per NHL TOI, only 9 of them had any point where he saw both Bergeron and Chara on the ice, by the looks of the timeonice shift chart. With the exception of Clarke MacArthur missing, Carlyle iced his best lineup and he got the best out of them.
To talk about individual players for a bit:
James Reimer. 39 of 41, and some of them were absolutely huge. The two goals against were some very aggressive crease-crashing, with nothing beating him cleanly. The defense in front of him had a few lapses, some ugly turnovers, and he had an answer for almost everything.
Lupul. EIGHT shots on goal, two goals. Over 22 minutes in ice time. When Randy Carlyle got Kessel away from Bergeron and Chara, he had to deal with the bulk of Boston's best, but still managed to hold the two to just one assist. In fact, the same goes for Bozak, who spent more time with Lupul and Frattin than Kessel, but still didn't have a night full of forced passes or careless turnovers.
Jake Gardiner had an extraordinarily Jake Gardiner game - a huge turnover in the defensive zone while trying to pass to Colton Orr (who held up, which led to the confusion), and a nice fluttering shot that had Rask lay down a rebound in his own zone. He plays a high risk, high reward game, but the Leafs were actually able to clear the zone last night, and he's a big part of the reason why.
Dion Phaneuf had a good, clean game. He laid a big hit on Daniel Paille, and this great video on YouTube shows just how Phaneuf connects with the shoulder, rather than making the head the "principle point of contact." The video actually lead Bruins fans to move the goalposts, changing their cry to "charging," but even there, the reverse angle shows he left his feet as a result of contact, not prior to. I wasn't going to even include this, since it's the kind of strong, dependable play we normally get from the Captain, but Bruins fans seem to be in a bit of a tizzy over it - especially hilarious because these are the same people where, roles reversed, they'd be the first to defend it.
And oh yeah, Phil Kessel scored an even strength game winning breakaway goal. He so clutch - what clutch, leadershippy goal scoring. I'm not sure how Phil Kessel's press hounds will make that goal about them, but I think it'll happen. Thank you, Kessel.
So now the Leafs go home with a win in the series. Carlyle will get last change, and if he sticks to last night's strategies, he might be able to get more great performances out of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Go Leafs Go.