They said the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t hold a lead. They did. They said the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t play a full 60 minutes of hockey. They did. They said the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t beat the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. They did.
On the backs of Mitch Marner’s two goals, William Nylander with a third, and Frederik Andersen’s incredible 37-save effort, the Maple Leafs took game one of their first-round series over the Bruins 4-1.
It wasn’t a great start for the Leafs, who were forced to battle in their own zone for much of the first two minutes. Despite all the zone time for the Bruins, they were only able to get off a long shot on Frederik Andersen by Marcus Johansson during a Leafs line change. Surprisingly, once the fourth line got on the ice following the Nazem Kadri line, they were able to play in the offensive zone for a shift. A highlight of that minute was when Connor Brown fell onto Tuukka Rask, knocking him down. I can finally see why Babcock likes him.
Within the first five minutes, the Leafs had three shots to the Bruins’ two. Two of those Leafs shots came off from Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. Both former Marlies wingers forced Rask to make awkward saves with his pads. On the other side, Freddy Andersen was looking cool as a cucumber with his positioning and movements.
Nine minutes into the game, William Nylander took the first penalty of the series. He was skating into the offensive zone trying to hold the puck while waiting for teammates, but he got overwhelmed by multiple Bruins and took a high-sticking penalty while trying to retrieve the puck from Connor Clifton .
30 seconds into the power play, Brad Marchand faked a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle and was able to find a seam to Bergeron at the side of the net. Once the puck got through, it was a gimme goal for the Bruins.
Ron Hainsey was the closest player in the area of Bergeron, but I would say it was a combination of Brown letting Marchand get inside him, and Kapanen jumping in the wrong direction with his stick. Kapanen was looking at Torey Krug at the point but he was essentially out of the play while Bergeron was able to sneak behind him and into a clear passing lane.
“COME ON MARNER YEAHH!!!!!”
Mitchell Marner tied the game with less than five minutes to go in the first period off a wonky rebound from a Jake Muzzin point shot. Mitch was bursting for the rebound from the wing and loosed as heavy of a slap shot as he could muster in order to get the puck through Rask and in. Both Zach Hyman and John Tavares were planted in front of the net, but the puck didn’t go off them before bouncing off Rask and onto Marner’s stick.
It was a great play from Marner. He was quick in reaction to the rebound coming to the soft side and gave it all to get power on the shot. Plays like this are why we love Mitch and especially love him in the playoffs. More of that and we beat Boston.
All things considered, the first period against Boston should be very encouraging to Leafs fans. They out-attempted the Bruins 19-9 at 5v5. Yes, they more than doubled them. They also had more shots (10-7) and more scoring chances by a mile (11-3). It was a great period and playing more like that should have the Leafs win more games than not.
given the environment, and the opponent, that was probably one of the best periods the leafs have played in 2019— dom luszczyszyn 🍁 (@domluszczyszyn) April 11, 2019
Qualitatively, it was a tenacious period for the Leafs. First and foremost, the emotion and desperation in Marner on his goal was great and should be an example to the rest of the team in terms of how they should play. That’s not to say the Leafs weren’t playing like that before.
The fourth line was playing very well considering their role. Brown hit both Rask and Johansson, and was generally a very annoying person to play against. Same goes for Trevor Moore, who continued to murder every stereotype against short players. The guy is a beast, end of conversation. And I was really happy to not have noticed Frederik Gauthier one bit.
Hyman was dogged in his determination all period, tripping over himself more than a few times but still finding ways to get where he needed to be. Patrick Marleau is very limited in what he can do at his age, but he was still able to show flashes of that game-breaking speed and ability to finish off the rush, an encouraging sign. Finally, Matthews had a moment of brilliance right after the Bergeron goal on top of out-shooting the Bruins by five in the first period.
Oh, and Nikita Zaitsev may have had the best period of his life. He stopped a 2-on-1, made some great plays along the boards, and only iced the puck maybe once or twice at the most!
Right at the start of the second, Kapanen got caught high-sticking Jake DeBrusk in the shoulder, sending the Leafs to the penalty kill. On the kill, DeBrusk tried to make a pass with his stick between his legs, but whiffed on it and gave up a breakaway for Marner. As Marner was poised to shoot, DeBrusk hauled Marner down and into Rask. Marner got a penalty shot and scored on a sweet dangle.
Here's the trip that lead to the call. pic.twitter.com/BWyeAHZsE7— Flintor (@TheFlintor) April 12, 2019
The Leafs were generally out-shot in the first half of the second, but Andersen was as solid as a brick wall against everything the Bruins threw at him. Going the other way, the Leafs didn’t get a high quantity of chances, but they made up for it with a couple really great chances created only through shear talent. Example, Auston Matthews:
matthews comes off the bench and rings one off the post pic.twitter.com/kWey5JN0iu— dylan (@DylanFremlin) April 12, 2019
As the second started to wind down, the Bruins started to get sloppy and the Leafs took advantage.
With less than two minutes left in the period, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander woke up from a relatively quiet first half of the game and connected for a beautiful goal. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk jumped in too deep with the Bruins third line and got caught as Hainsey and Marleau were able to retrieve the puck in the corner. Once Kadri got the puck into space, Nylander saw an acre of space in front of him because the two Bruins that were back got caught on the wrong side of the ice and went for it. Kadri had to thread the puck through three Bruins players, but once he did, Nylander was left all alone to snipe on Rask on the breakaway.
John Tavares had his own chance at a breakaway goal with less than a minute left in the period, but he was stopped trying to go blocker on Rask.
Tavares knows not to go up 4-1, veteran leader.— Shane (@shanessm) April 12, 2019
The Bruins definitely applied the pressure on the Leafs in the second period. In terms of shot attempts (18-30), the Bruins had a better second period than the Leafs had in the first in terms of volume. But despite appearing to be playing on their heels, the Leafs scored the only two goals of the period and were still able to keep the 5v5 shots (12-18) and scoring chances (10-16) within arms reach.
I liked what I saw from Hainsey, Zaitsev, and Muzzin in their own zones. They didn’t let the Bruins skate around them and were tough in stopping battles along the boards. Yes, it’s always better to not have to be in your own zone, but at least while they were there they were effective.
Okay, I lied, Naz is never quiet.
Kadri takes down DeBrusk and continues chirping at him on the bench. pic.twitter.com/fnmfvdAgiG— Flintor (@TheFlintor) April 12, 2019
The star of the second period for the Leafs was definitely Freddy Andersen, who was showing all the poise, confidence, and ability of a prime Carey Price (at half the cost!) On the Bruins side, unless Chara has another gear that he’ll pull out later in the series, he looked washed against the Leafs’ top two lines. Heck, I saw a highlight were Connor Brown was able to get around him. Through two periods, Chara was a minus six in shot attempts and scoring chances.
The first half of the period was pretty tame, not much happening either way. But with 8:15 left in the period, THE BRUINS GOT CALLED FOR A PENALTY! And it was Chara, too, which never happens! Chara looked both old and slow in this game and he was caught being both when he had to run blatant interference on Nylander, who was going to be away on a break with Marleau.
Matthews got a big chance on the power play, but failed to convert. Beyond that, the Leafs did nothing but successfully kill two minutes from the clock with a two-goal lead.
The clock kept ticking, and the Leafs were still ahead by two.
The Bruins pulled the goalie with 2:30 left in regulation, and the Leafs were still ahead by two.
And with just over a minute left in the game, John Tavares beat out Patrice Bergeron for a faceoff in the neutral zone and scored the empty-net goal, sealing the win for the Leafs.
WE STOLE HOME ICE FROM THE BRUINS!