Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins: Game Three

This is a home game and will be the early HNIC game on CBC at 7:00 p.m., and you should be able to find that on their streaming site (geoblocked to Canada).

The game is also on TVAS, NBCSN and NESN. If you’re stuck watching NESN for some reason, you have my deepest sympathies.

You know where Salty Cup of Chowder is, and they will ban your keister if you troll there.

We know who isn’t going to be in this game, and that’s Nazem Kadri. We aren’t yet sure about Torey Krug or Jake DeBrusk who were listed as day-to-day yesterday. Bear in mind that, in the playoffs, day-to-day covers everything from a stomach ache to a broken leg.

The Leafs have some decisions to make, and while I’ve seen some really wild suggestions about line shuffling, as you get out there in the world, they aren’t going to re-invent the wheel. They have two extra forwards, Nic Petan and Tyler Ennis. Ennis is not going to play centre. Frederik Gauthier is not coming out of the lineup and Patrick Marleau is not going to the fourth line. The Leafs are not calling up Jeremy Bracco  or Mason Marchment (they can’t, but even if they could, they wouldn’t), and while I love the neato factor of the magic appearance of Miro Aaltonen (possible if he wanted to void his current contract with Vityaz), that’s not happening either.

The most likely, least disruptive change is that William Nylander will centre the third line, Connor Brown will move up to right wing, and the switch-hitting winger Tyler Ennis will come in on the fourth line. Moore can play either side too, so they can just zip around together while Gauthier does what he does.

And morning skate gave us exactly that:

Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen
Patrick Marleau - William Nylander - Connor Brown
Tyler Ennis - Frederik Gauthier - Trevor Moore

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Muzzin  - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Travis Dermott


Frederik Andersen
Michael Hutchinson

Boston Bruins

Forward Lines

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk ? - David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman
David Backes - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Noel Acciari- Chris Wagner

Defence Pairings

Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug ? - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton

Steven Kampfer


Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

We’ll update when we know the Bruins’ plans.

Despite the insistence from many quarters that Nylander was bad and should feel bad over Game Two, the bottom six on the Leafs were the successful lines at getting offensive zone time, and getting off some shots without getting buried defensively. There’s one glaring giveaway that led to a goal that shines pretty bright in memories, but there’s also the shooting percentage. They didn’t produce.

Swapping out Kadri for Brown on that line is not an upgrade, to say the least, but I have seen zero evidence that Trevor Moore is better than Brown in any way that isn’t cap hit. I’d get Tyler Ennis in on that line at least some of the time, however. He can score, and Brown can’t. He can also get the puck over to Marleau, who can score as well, which is about all he can do these days.

Auston Matthews needs to produce. Sigh. I mean, he has been. He’s shooting a lot, and that’s how you get goals, not by trying hard or having the right facial expression or hitting guys. But what’s hurting Matthews is that the Bruins are very good at limiting the Leafs shots from right in tight, particularly in Game Two.

But they sure aren’t perfect at it.

Matthews also needs to spend less time hemmed in the defensive zone, and the easy way to accomplish that is to put Nylander on his wing, but now that’s not even an option.

Lost in all the bitter-flavoured commentary from all sources over Game Two is this simple fact: John Tavares was terrible. A flat-out disaster. Horribad, buried, snowed under, ineffective, overmatched, overwhelmed and toothless.

Note: that’s all-situations

If the Bruins can successfully repeat the shutdown of Tavares, the Leafs will need Auston Matthews’ shooting percentage to spike back up where it usually is if they’re going to win it.

Mike Babcock controls the matchups now, and we will see Tavares vs Bergeron. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by anyone from putting Matthews out vs Bergeron. Whatever you might want Matthews to be, at 21, he’s not up to that in the playoffs. He is the most talented offensive player on the ice, however, and it might suit some narrative of work ethic or toughness or grit, grind, grart to want to see him slog up the ice from behind his own goal line like he’s climbing Mount Doom or some such, but it’s inefficient. And stupid. This is a goal scoring contest, not a man-off.

He needs to be in the offensive zone, he needs the defenders that can add to his offence (Mo, in case that’s not obvious), and they need to have puck control better than in Game Two. Five kittens just up from their nap have better puck control than any Leafs in Game Two, so it’s hard to imagine they won’t be better.

Meanwhile John Tavares will be on the ice against the worst Bruins player in the defensive zone. The bad end of the list of Bruins by xGA/60 (SVA at 5on5 from NST) is:

  1. Brad Marchand
  2. Danton Heinen
  3. David Pastrnak
  4. Charlie Coyle
  5. Patrice Bergeron
  6. David Backes

Super fantastically small sample, but take a look at their regular season play over the last two years, and you will discover this one neat trick to defeating the Bruins: their scary top line executes very poorly defensively, which is why you don’t want some grit, grind, goalless “shutdown” line playing against them.

While I’m here, I’ll just say that Mattews’ line is the best on the Leafs. He might get hemmed in, but he’s often on the ice with defencemen who can handle that. This is a bit of a switch from his regular season results, so consider it flukey.

Game Three needs puck control. Short, sharp, smart passes. Fast feet and fast brains. Game Three needs shots from in tight. Forget the heavy board play and go for the net-front where, I’ll just guarantee you, the slashing, cross-checking and tripping won’t get called.

That’s tough. Play through it, and for the love of all that’s holy beat the Bruins like they deserve to be beaten. With lots of goals. Let’s see that light red all night long.