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Maple Leafs fail to connect on anything but hits in loss to the Bruins

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The refs “let them play” and we reaped what they sowed.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Game two in this series sees the Leafs standing pat on lines after the win in game one. Meanwhile, the Bruins swapped out deadline acquisition Marcus Johansson (who is ill) for ill-fated free-agent signing David Backes. Always go with your worst mistake. Although, I’m not sure who is next up for the Bruins after Backes.

I know some of the usual crowd can’t watch the game tonight, so to keep it real for you, I’m going to talk exclusively about big hits and faceoffs in this recap.

First Period

Right off the first faceoff we see Bruce Cassidy changing his matchup game by putting out the fourth line against John Tavares. As you do.

And the Kadri line pop right out as Babcock counters.

This is fun until someone messes up a change, but it’s a risk both teams are taking.

Charlie McAvoy is targeting Zach Hyman, which should be interesting. Take the least meaningful forward on that line out of the play, guys, go for it.

David Pastrnak with the first shot, and Freddie swats it aside.

Morgan Rielly gets one back on Rask, and now this game is on.

Jake DeBrusk with a dangerous rush that Freddie has as well.

And Nazem Kadri is giving the ref a performance review already, as the Bruins are making a lot of Bruins-like plays in between controlling the puck.

The Leafs are getting run quite a bit.

And Boston makes a harmless dump in that Nikita Zaitsev misplays behind the Leafs net, Tavares can’t get, and Muzzin has lost sight of, and it ends up with a Charlie Coyle goal.

1-0 Boston, and you could see this goal coming from a mile off.

The Bruins are doing the thing they did well in game one: taking the puck back on Leafs passes in the offensive zone.

The Leafs had a bad start, got caught chasing the play, and they need to come out of the first TV timeout like they can play this game.

The matchup stuff continues, and it looks like Mike Babcock is largely concerned with which defensive pair is out vs Bergeron. He wants Muzzin-Zaitsev.

I read somewhere before Game One that Babcock was totally going to play Ron Hainsey against the Bruins top line. That seems kind of silly now, doesn’t it?

DeBrusk and Kadri discuss renaissance poetry for a bit in the corner, which nicely busts up the Bruins offensive flow. They both sit and we have some four-on-four.

Matthews with a very, very close wraparound try.

Dermott and DeBrusk mix it up on the boards, and there’s a lot of this, but some signs the Leafs are finding the flow of the game through that haze. Dermott got a bloody nose out of it.

Torey Krug throws a perfect stretch pass lob up the centre of the ice, and Pastrnak gets it to Marchand, and you knew that was going in before the pass happened. Stretch Pass, all’s I’m saying.

2-0 Bruins.

LOL David Pastrnak has been throwing hits, and much has been made of it, since that’s not his style. And now he’s sitting down for it. He runs at Jake Muzzin, leaves his feet, and that’s a rookie, overexcited move. This one the refs can’t let go.

Leafs have one minute of power play time in this period. I wouldn’t call it a good power play, but the Leafs worked hard.

Numbers

The Leafs managed eight even-strength Corsi For to the Bruins 24. What more can be said?

Well, one thing:

They played each other to a nearly shotless standstill for 15 minutes after the frantic first five, so if those numbers conjured up an image of relentless Bruins zone time, it really wasn’t like that. It was still bad though.

Second Period

The power play resumes, and there’s Marchand on a not very exciting shorthanded wander, but nothing else goes down.

Muzzin falls down, and that leads to some extended zone time against the Leafs fourth line, which always worries me.

Andersen with a big save on DeBrusk on a broken play rush.

And same again on another rush chance, this time from Kuhlman.

We’ve switched to a game of trading turnovers, which might just open up the centre of the ice for the Leafs.

Good heavens, a nice series of short, sharp passes and the Leafs exit the zone. I remember that from the other night, but certainly not the first period.

Bergeron gets some nice zone time vs Matthews, but the Zaitsev-Muzzin pairing is out there, not Rielly-Hainsey, so it’s not terrifying, just alarming.

So far in this period the Leafs have the puck more, now they just need to do some things with it.

What is happening?

Krug is hurt on a huge hit from Muzzin. Zaitsev gives the puck away, and the post saves the day.

Krug looks un-well, and that’s not a good thing.

Right away, on a totally innocent play, Zaitsev shunts the puck back to Nylander, who goes to wheel behind his own net, and he loses control of it, and Danton Heinen makes it 3-0 Bruins:

Looks like Freddie Gauthier is taking a penalty for being hit? Not sure what’s up. Wouldn’t be the first time in this game, Kadri really didn’t do anything when he went off with DeBrusk in the first.

Oh, okay, he’s taking a penalty for stopping a Bruins guy from getting off the bench? There was a million hits uncalled in the minute before that. And this is why “let them play” never works. Never has. You end up with guys sitting for stupid shit, while the big stuff gets a free pass.

The Leafs need a big kill here.

Andersen provides the big kill until the Leafs finally clear it, and he follows up with two ten-bell saves.

And like I said. Chara, who has done how much uncalled shit in just these two games? He goes off for puck over glass. That’s the thing we have zero tolerance for. Only thing stupider would be a too many men call while some guy is bleeding on the ice.

Leafs power play could sure use some power.

It’s not bad, they get setup and get some shots, and then Kadri takes a hooking call which is both undisciplined and a kind of “well, what do you expect?” given the way this game has gone.

After the four-on-four is done, Hyman gets a shorty chance as the skaters kill this penalty, and let Freddie rest.

Oh no.

Kadri runs into DeBrusk as he comes out of the box and gets the puck. Kadri is down on his knees. No, no. No. That’s his left knee. Knee on knee from DeBrusk.

No call. Which is not a shock. This is a classic whistle in pocket game that’s now so out of control the TV guys are surprised.

The Leafs run the clock out, and we go to the intermission not knowing who the 3C will be in the third or just what a penalty is in the NHL.

Thoughts

Okay, this is one of those games, and it’s very hard to sift out the reality from the smoky haze of all the hits, the referees deciding the game by trying not to decide the game, and all the just general shit that’s going on.

What is happening, from the Leafs point of view, is that they’re late. Not that bullshit “start on time” cliché which I wish Babcock had never taught everyone, but late to the puck, late with the pass, late to receive the pass. They sure aren’t slow on their feet, and this is a Leafs thing. Other teams, when their timing is off, they’re slow. The Leafs are still fast, and then it becomes chaos.

But what’s the causal relationship? Are the pucks bouncing because the pass was bad, or is the pass just fine, but the bouncing puck kills it in transit?

It’s really easy to say the game is physical and the Leafs can’t handle that, and that is absolutely not what’s going on in this game. The Leafs aren’t getting manned off the puck, they’re just turning it over on bad passes.

In Game One, they clicked. The breakouts worked, they got zone entries behind the Bruins, and they got shots.

In this game, the breakout is a turnover more often than not, they can still slide through the neutral zone like there’s no defenders there, but they have to dump it in because they can’t gain the zone with control. You can decide that’s a choice, or you can see that as a forced play by the Bruins.

Who’s choosing? Well, it sure looks like the Leafs are just reacting to everything half a second slow. This is not the first time they’ve played a game like this. But is it them or the Bruins that are causing this?

That’s a lot of words to say pick your narrative, but don’t be shocked if the guy one comment down has a totally different one.

Third Period

Kadri is out to start this period, but not Torey Krug. A new line starts: Matthews with Marner and Hyman.

Classic case of what I was rambling about. Kapanen tries to pass it through two guys and turns it over. He was just too late to dish it off or get his feet moving.

Six more things that should be penalties go uncalled. One is an assault on Tavares, and the other his him dumping Rask on his ass.

There’s a big scrum after a normal shot on goal that Rask saves, and this is childish. Now the ref has to pick a guy and send him to the box. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Looks like the Bruins are taking the only penalty, which is good.

The Leafs make just enough bad decisions to nullify their own skill on the power play.

The Leafs get a lot of zone time with Nylander out there on the end of the Matthews line shift with Hyman, and right as I’m having very fond memories of that line, Kadri switches with Matthews, and finds the net.

3-1 Bruins.

Jeez. Matthews in tight almost gets another.

Andersen loses the puck on the Bruins only attempt at offence in a week and a half, but Muzzin helps out.

Marleau takes a hit from DeBrusk, and Kadri goes full throttle on his besty DeBrusk, and Kadri gets the gate.

And, well. Kadri cross-checked DeBrusk to the face, and this has to be compared to his hit on Wingels last year and Kucherov’s hit on Nutivaara last night. Congrats to the refs for helping to set this play up. Yes Kadri needs to cool his jets there, and he’s his own worst enemy and in danger of being the team’s too, but he had a lot of help getting hot under the collar. (Mixed metaphor alert) I have no idea if that gets more than the five and a game. I’m bad at DoPS Wheel of Discipline. DeBrusk never came back, though.

The Bruins have lots of power play time now, nearly enough to run out the clock on this stinker of a game.

Bah. Bruins score. 4-1

That’s finally over. Blech.


So tell me, do you think you’d feel more positive heading into the home games if the Leafs had lost Game One and won Game Two?

Poll

Would you feel different if Game One and Two had happened in reverse order?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Absolutely, I’d be more hopeful for the next game.
    (135 votes)
  • 23%
    I never had hope, and I still don’t.
    (149 votes)
  • 55%
    No, getting one win in Boston is all that matters.
    (356 votes)
640 votes total Vote Now