By Stan Smith
In the last game before the extended All-Star break, the Maple Leafs lost an opportunity to send a message to the league-leading Boston Bruins. They also blew a chance to secure their hold of second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Similarly to the Ottawa Senators game, the Maple Leafs were looking pretty good halfway into this game. Despite giving up a shorthanded goal, they were tied 1-1 just over halfway into the game.
While the analytics don’t tell the whole story, they do indicate that the Maple Leafs played better overall than the 5-2 score would indicate. According to Naturalstatrick.com, in all situations, the Maple Leafs had 60% of the Shot Attempts, 63% of the Scoring Chances, 65% of the High-Danger Scoring Chances, and 59% of the Expected Goals.
Giordano and Holl
I thought, watching the game, that Mark Giordano and Justin Holl were by far the best defensive pair for the Maple Leafs. Giordano might have been their best player, period. They both assisted on the only five-on-five goal the Maple Leafs scored, which was Calle Jarnkrok’s goal in the third period to bring the Maple Leafs to within one of the Bruins. They were also not on the ice for any of the five goals the Bruins scored.
Giordano used his ability to read the play, and his stick to break up a number of chances for the Bruins in the Maple Leafs’ zone. He also led the Maple Leafs offensively with five shots on goal.
Holl had a couple of miscues with the puck in his own zone and got bailed out by Giordano. However, he played a solid game defensively without the puck.
Their analytics were also excellent. In all situations, Holl was on the ice for 25 Shot Attempts For and only 8 Shot Attempts Against, 14 shots For and five Against, 13 Scoring Chances For and only four Against, and four High-Danger Chances For and only two Against.
Giordano was on the ice for 25 Shot Attempts For and 9 Against, 13 Shots For, and six Against. His Scoring Chance and High-Danger Scoring Chance numbers were identical to Holl’s.
Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 5-2 Loss to the Bruins
Boston Big Guns Shut Down
The Maple Leafs did a great job at shutting down the Bruins’ big guns. Not only were Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron held off the scoresheet, they only had one shot on the net each.
David Pastrnak had an assist on the fifth Boston goal after head coach Jim Montgomery moved him away from Bergeron and Marchand and put him on a line with Pavel Dacha and David Krejci.
While Marner did not have a great game (he was a team-worst -4), he did score his 19th goal of the season and his 60th point. Marner’s goal puts him on pace for 30 this season. His 60 points lead the team and have him in a tie for 11th in NHL scoring.
While the Maple Leafs did a great job at shutting down Boston’s top line, they failed to shut down everyone else. The Bruins got five goals and thirteen points from the rest of their skaters.
Overall this season Ilya Samsonov has played great for the Maple Leafs. In this stretch of eight games since he replaced Matt Murray in the Florida Panthers’ game he had six solid outings in his previous seven games.
He was stellar in the first period of this game. But.
On the Brandon Carlo goal that put the Bruins up 2-1, it appears by his body and stick position that Samsonov fully expected Carlo, who had only one goal this season prior to this game, to attempt a cross-crease pass to Trent Frederic. Carlo fooled him by shooting instead of passing.
Given the fact that Boston had control of the puck for over two minutes, it prevented the fourth-line and third-defensive pair for the Maple Leafs from changing. Boston also took advantage of their nearby bench to get fresh skaters on the ice. That goal can be chalked up to pure exhaustion by everyone on the ice including Samsonov.
The next two Boston goals are ones Samsonov has to stop.
The 3-1 goal by AJ Greer is a straight-on shot from the top of the circle that just plain beats Samsonov. I could see where Samsonov might have been distracted by David Kampf dropping his stick after getting it caught up in Greer’s hands. With no screen though, it is a stoppable shot.
One interesting thing I noticed in this play is that, once Kampf gets his stick into Greer’s hands, I could distinctly hear someone yell “Hook! Hook! Hook!” I have to assume that is the referee either planning on calling a hooking penalty or telling Kampf he is in danger of getting a hooking call.
I think Kampf makes the wrong choice here. After hearing “Hook!” called, I would assume I was getting a hooking call. I would then make sure it is deserved and try to hook him well enough to stop him from getting the shot off instead of giving up and dropping my stick taking me out of the play altogether.
That is with the benefit of hindsight though. I don’t actually blame Kampf for the goal.
After Jarnkrok scored to close the Maple Leafs to within one, everything about the Pavel Zacha goal that restores the Bruins’ two-goal lead stinks.
First, the goal was scored 30 seconds after Jarnkrok had scored. Second, it was a wrist shot from about 10 feet inside the blue line, again with absolutely no screen. Samsonov had a clear sight line on the shot and plenty of time to set up for it. Also, there are no other Bruins’ players anywhere near the net. Samsonov stayed right at the top of his crease. He could have easily and safely moved further out of his net to give Zacha less to shoot at.
The third ugly thing about this goal is that it was scored four on four. They stated on the broadcast that the Maple Leafs have yet to score a four-on-four goal this season.
If there is a hockey dictionary anywhere and they wanted a definition of a team-deflating goal, this could be it.
I do feel the need to mention that both Samsonov and Keefe alluded to the fact that Samsonov was dealing with cold or flu symptoms, but that both felt he was well enough to play the game.
Related: Ex-Maple Leafs Colin Blackwell & His Season with the Blackhawks
There were two other “Uglies,” I thought in this game. One was the Wayne Simmonds and AJ Greer fight following the Greer goal. I am not against fighting in hockey, I thoroughly enjoyed it when the Maple Leafs were part of the old “Chuck” Norris Division back in the day. I also admired the Broad Street Bullies. I think that if a player takes liberties with a player on your team that you should stand up for that player.
In this case, though, this was a reaction to Greer scoring a goal. He didn’t do anything to hurt another Maple Leafs’ player. I do realize that it was a mutual exchange as both players dropped their gloves simultaneously. I am sure that it was Simmonds that put out the challenge though. I can’t see Greer saying to Simmonds, “I just scored, now I am going to beat you up.”
On that note, we don’t know what was said, but it was not a good look to see Greer get obviously rocked by a shot to the head, and then Simmonds taking advantage of him being stunned to repeatedly reign blows on him. It was also not a good look to see Greer leave the game and not return. Hopefully, he was okay.
The other Ugly was Michael Bunting’s meltdown on the referees. I get it. By my count, the referees missed at least four obvious calls on the Bruins, two of them involving Bunting on the same shift, a cross-check and a high stick. Losing it on the referees like that is only going to hurt you and the team in the long run. I understand that Bunting is an emotional player, and that is part of what makes him the effective player that he is. He needs to focus his emotions on the ice in a more positive way.
The players, with the exception of Marner, now get to relax and do whatever they do to rest and charge their batteries. Seeing as the All-Star game is in Florida, even Marner can treat this more like a vacation.
When the Maple Leafs return to action in nine days they have a back-to-back, home-and-home series versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Then they play only play one game in the following six days, a visit by the Chicago Blackhawks. That almost feels like a mini midseason training camp with an exhibition game in the middle of it.
I can’t help but think that if general manager Kyle Dubas is going to make a move, this week would be the ultimate time to do it. The extra practice time following the extended break would be the perfect opportunity to get any new acquisitions acclimated to the Maple Leafs’ team, and systems.
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