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Leafs undone by errors; drop Game 7 5-1 to Bruins

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Toronto couldn’t overcome some brutal first-period mistakes, and it ended their season.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Seven Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Be honest, do you really want to read this?

First Period

I’d like to note that the Boston anthem singer sucks. Rene Rancourt was really annoying, but this guy is like bad opera. Blech.

The first faceoff goes awry and they do it again. It ends with some pressure down the Boston end and they ice it. Auston Matthews’ line comes out and does not have a good shift; Boston promptly runs them around and Freddie has to make a wraparound save.

The fourth line gets some zone time, which is nice, and then Connor Brown gets in on net, which is nice. The Bruins charge back before eventually the Tavares line gets out again, puts some pressure on, and forces the Bruins’ fourth line to ice it. Auston Matthews’ line follows up and gets a good chance.

The Leafs haven’t looked terrific—very sloppy in their own zone—but a few chances, a bit of zone time for. There have been some brutal Leaf passes, but Toronto has also repeatedly forced Boston to ice it.

The Bruins are getting chances too though, including multiple odd man rushes featuring Marcus Johansson. The broadcast thinks they’re overpassing it, and maybe they are, but if that final pass ever goes through it’s going to get real scary for Toronto.

The fourth line wingers are bringing some of the feistiness that has made them so popular in Toronto, with Trevor Moore beating out an icing and Tyler Ennis chipping in to battle beside him. Mitch Marner gets a little bit of space and puts a wrister on Tuukka, then almost gets the rebound. Rask is up for it.

Matthews can’t get his stick on a dangerous chance shortly after, and Nylander tips one just wide the shift after. The Leafs are on the attack a bit more now, but the pressure is stopped when Karson Kuhlman checks Jake Muzzin at the blue line as he tries to hold the puck in and forces an offside.

Mike Babcock is making full use of his fourth line early. On the one hand, they’ve been good so far and it’s quite early, so it’s probably not time to shorten the bench, but...well, we have these stars for a reason. I guess we’ll see.

There’s some start and stop play here as the Leafs go icing - Freddie Anderson smother - icing. Connor Brown ends up coming in one on three, puts a shot on goal, and discusses modern philosophy with Brandon Carlo after the whistle. Nice work, Brownie.

The Leafs are forechecking well and getting some turnovers, but the classic Bruin setup of always-have-guys-back has made it hard to get quality rush chances. Some good pressure though, and Muzzin hits two guys to stop a rush.

I have a momentary heart attack as Travis Dermott bobbles it in front of the net right to David Krejci, who pops it up off Freddie’s pads. Andersen catches it for the whistle, and Toronto breathes.

But not for very long. The Leafs get hemmed in their zone, off a failed clear—Gardiner and Dermott are not perfect tonight by any stretch—but the Leafs aren’t really in what ought to be serious danger. Joakim Nordstrom is on an absolute nothing angle with Jake Gardiner protecting the slot. But Freddie thinks he’s sealed and he isn’t, and Nordstrom beats him through a hole near his glove. I love Freddie and he’s a great goalie who’s been good for us many a time, including just a minute ago. But this goal just can’t go in at this time.

1-0 Bruins.

The game more or less returns to its previous state; the Leafs have some pressure but not many ten-bell chances to finish on, while the Bruins get some rushes on the counter.

Jake Gardiner coughs up the puck to Marcus Johansson and effectively ends his career in Toronto. Johansson zips out in front and wires a shot past Freddie. 2-0 Bruins.

I won’t lie, it is really tough to see a player who has done as much good for Toronto as Jake Gardiner doom himself to infamy. But if Toronto doesn’t come back to win this game, that is what has happened. Simple as that.

The Leafs come out and have the puck for a little bit before basically turtling to death for the final twenty seconds, and Freddie is forced to make a toe save just to keep this one from going to 3-0. Toronto is fortunate to escape the period down only two.

They had some good moments—this was not a period where the Leafs got brutally outplayed, like the second period of Game 6—but the Leafs had two absolutely fatal errors from Freddie Andersen (abetted by Travis Dermott) and Jake Gardiner. There is a pretty decent chance those errors are going to be enough to end Toronto’s season. I don’t really have a lot else to say except to hope otherwise.

Second Period

The Leafs come out with some apparent awareness that their season is forty minutes from death, and they get a nice chance off a nifty tip from Mitch Marner at the side of the net. Rask has the answer, unfortunately.

The Matthews line isn’t worth much defensively, and they give up a dangerous chance—while the defence and in one case the goaltending are rightly going to take most of the heat for the first two goals against, the Matthews line was on at forward for both.

Patrick Marleau makes a nice little rush effort on a flip to himself.

BUT WAIT!

Mike Babcock is partly vindicated in his playing of the fourth line—Tyler Ennis, as the last man left once his fellows had changed, makes an energetic forecheck with no regard for his size and gives the puck to John Tavares, who puts it past Tuuka Rask’s blocker. 2-1, and the Leafs have a bit of life.

They seem to know it, too; Matthews comes on for his most dangerous shift of the night so far and the Leafs have the puck buzzing around the Bruins zone a bit. Matthews unfortunately misses the shot, but Toronto gets back out there.

The Nylander line gets a Marleau chance to start its shift and keep the heat going, but then the Bruins counter and put some pressure on his line. The Bruins sustain some zone time but don’t capitalize and the play goes back that other way.

But oh my lord, that was close. Danton Heinen wires one on net, and Freddie extends while down to somehow stop a very deadly rebound opportunity from Brad Marchand. Goddamn.

The Matthews line gets down the other end, and Andreas Johnsson draws a penalty when Brandon Carlo puts a vicious cross check into him. I’m torn between being happy and dreading the inevitable make up call.

The Toronto powerplay looks a hell of a lot better than it has in recent games, as the first unit sets up and gets multiple dangerous looks, but unfortunately nothing gets past Rask. The second unit also has a nice chance, but the same result. They’re fighting, God help them.

The fourth line wingers just keep right on justifying Babcock continuing to play them, although this one doesn’t go in for them. Ennis and Moore go in two on one and Ennis can’t quite beat Rask blocked side; then Moore gets a slot shot.

The Leafs have multiple good chances, although the Bruins rush back for a chance of their own that Bergeron puts wide. Lots of action and the Leafs are probably getting most of it, which is really how this has to go if the Leafs are going to tie it.

The Sean Kuraly line runs the Matthews line its own zone coming out of the commercial break, and it’s quite a bit before Kasperi Kapanen finally gets it out.

Patrick Marleau is showing some desperation strength here and makes a good rush that leads to some o-zone time. He’s a shell of his former self but he’s giving it everything he’s got, and you have to admire it.

The Bruins scare the daylights out of me on a Zaitsev giveaway but it doesn’t go in, and the pace is so fast that your heroic recapper has to move right along. There’s some end to end action and the fourth line (again!) gets a rush that could really be dangerous, except it ends on a frustrating offside.

The Bruins have reasserted themselves a little bit more late, after Toronto (by my eye test) owned the first three-quarters of the period. The fourth line keeps on truckin’, though—another SOG for Tyler Ennis after a battle involving Freddie Gauthier. There’s a little more back and forth, but no major chances and the period ends. There is a scrum at the end where everyone has hurt feelings and possibly other hurt things.

Well, it’ll only be so much consolation if they can’t finish the comeback, but the Leafs had a damn good period after they could have folded their tent. They stopped the bleeding, carried play, and generally played they way they’ll have to play if they want to have a prayer. Special notice goes to Tyler Ennis, who is attempting to move heaven and Earth to move this series. People are going to want Babcock’s head, but at least as far as the fourth-line wings go, I can’t really blame him for playing them (though maybe it’s time to just roll three centres now.) Unfortunately, special notice also has to go to Tuukka Rask, who is playing very well.

Third Period

The Leafs open the third period with an offside, which is not terrific. Mike Babcock is laughing sarcastically on the bench.

The Bruins’ Karson Kuhlman does a good job holding the puck down the Leafs’ end and several Boston pressure shifts later, Sean Kuraly comes in past a tired Ron Hainsey and gets a step on an also-tired Morgan Rielly, and plants the dagger on a wrist shot top corner. It’s a nice shot, but I don’t know, man, I think you can ask your goalie to have that. 3-1 Bruins.

There’s a nice little passing play but Rask is able to get a pad to stop a would-have-been-Zach-Hyman tap-in. It’s a question of time now, and time is not on our side.

There’s a good little tricky shot from John Tavares and the Bruins have an extremely blatant too many men. The Leafs set up and are not able to finish. The second unit comes in after about 65 seconds, which will be one of the pieces of evidence cited in some Twitter arguments this summer about why Mike Babcock should get fired.

The Leafs are no longer especially dominating play, and that is a bad sign with 12 minutes to go. The Bruins really just have to play minimum event hockey the rest of the way. The Matthews line goes up the ice and the Boston fourth line counterattacks.

Toronto has moments, but honestly, this feels done. The Leafs outplayed Boston in the second. Now they’re kind of back and forth with them. That isn’t going to be enough. The Bruins are also, as ever, good at long cycling shifts in the Leafs’ zone where they don’t really have to do much but wait for their shot.

Matthews hasn’t played an enormous amount lately, and yeah, I have to say I think that’s a serious mistake even though the fourth line hasn’t given up and the rest of the Leafs look like they might have. I hate to psychologize but this game feels over since the third goal against.

The Leafs pull the goalie at about three minutes, and the inevitable empty netter comes at 2:34. It was 4-1, as foretold. The Bruins would actually add a second empty netter in the dying seconds to put up a final score of 5-1, and that’s all she wrote.

Thoughts

  • Well, it sucks. The season has ended in a Game 7 loss to Boston, and that sucks. That’s just the reality.
  • There are positives to take from this series if you want. We can discuss them another day. Nobody wants to talk about them now.
  • Freddie Andersen did not have his best stuff tonight, and Tuukka Rask did. That isn’t the whole game story and Freddie has to have unusually good stuff behind this team, because of how poor they are defensively. But that’s how it went, and if you had told me in advance that that would be how it went, I would suspect we lost the hockey game.
  • Jake Gardiner had a very bad mistake at a very bad time again. It sucked. The only consolation is I suspect he’s gone this summer, so maybe your uncle will talk about it less next Thanksgiving.
  • Travis Dermott has not looked as ready for prime time as a lot of people kept telling me he was. Yes, I know he had great CF% playing third-pair minutes. So did Martin Marincin for most of his career. He’s a good young player, but I think there are reasons to temper expectations a bit for now.
  • John Tavares did everything he could, as did Tyler Ennis.
  • A lot of people will want Mike Babcock fired. They’re going to cite stretch passes, poor breakouts, underplaying his stars, overplaying his second powerplay unit, and (big picture) the failure of the penalty kills earlier in the series. I don’t think they’ll get their wish, but this conversation is coming.
  • Kadri, man, we sure could have used you.
  • Okay. Everyone’s gonna be emotional, and everyone has the right to. Just keep it civil in the comments, and let me emphasize, if we see anyone being a real asshole tonight, we are not going to be in a mood for leniency.
  • Thanks for reading our site throughout the season. As always, we’ll get up off the mat and get back at it soon enough. Cheers.