The Toronto Maple Leafs travelled to Boston to take on the Bruins in their fifth last game of the season. They failed to hold on to a one-goal lead in the third period and lost the game 2-1 in overtime.
The game itself was an “Ugly” game. Neither team was giving the other team any room to move out there. The best way I would describe it is a chess match with body checking.
As you might expect, the Bruins played a tough, physical game. They doled out 39 hits, many of them of the “heavy” variety. The Maple Leafs held their own in the physical department and delivered 28 hits of their own. That included a big hit by Sam Lafferty on Matt Grzelcyk in the first period that drew the attention of A.J. Greer. Lafferty was forced to drop the gloves.
Anyone who follows the NHL closely knows what happened behind the scenes at the most recent GM meetings. There, players being forced to fight following good clean hits was discussed. It was decided that a stricter interpretation of the instigator penalty would be used moving forward. That rule was enforced in this case. The result was that Greer received two and ten for instigating the fight.
I am sure to many fans the fact that the Maple Leafs failed to hold onto the one-goal lead late in the game was the reason for losing this game. To me, it was more about them not being able to add to that one-goal lead at any point in the game. You are not going to win many games by only scoring one goal.
Making Stars Of The Opposing Goalies
Once again the opposing goalie in a Maple Leafs’ game was awarded one of the three stars of the game. This makes the seventh consecutive loss going back to the Buffalo game on March 13th where the opposition goalie was named as one of the game stars. This time it was Jeremy Swayman stopping 31 of 32 shots. That gave him a 0.969 Save Percentage in the game. He got the second star of the game.
The Maple Leafs’ Big Guns Were Silent
None of the big four of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, or William Nylander had a single point in this game. To make matters worse, all four of those players were the only forwards to end up minus in the game. They were each minus one. Morgan Rielly also had zeros in the production department. Furthermore, he was on the ice for both goals scored by the Bruins.
Of those four players, Matthews is the only one that has been producing as of late. Tavares has been held without a point in four of his last five games.
After seeing his 11-game point streak come to an end, Marner has been held off the scoresheet for three games in a row.
Nylander is in a tremendous slump. He has failed to record a point in six of his last seven games and ten of his last twelve games.
Despite the loss, there were still several good takeaways from this game.
The Maple Leafs held their own against the best team in the league.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, at five-on-five the Maple Leafs had 61% of the Expected Goals, 58% of the High-Danger Scoring Chances, 53% of the Scoring Chances, 53% of the Shots, 52% of the Shot Attempts. With just over a minute in the game, they displayed a graphic on the television broadcast showing the Maple Leafs had 13:42 of Offensive Zone Possession Time to Boston’s 10:37.
Of the three forwards the Maple Leafs acquired at the trade deadline, Sam Lafferty has had, until this week, the least amount of impact. In 16 games with Toronto, Lafferty had scored just one goal and two assists.
Lafferty scored the only Toronto goal in this game off of a nice feed by Zach Aston-Reese in the second period. That gave the Maple Leafs a one-to-nothing lead. That goal also gave Lafferty the same number of goals (one) and assists (two) in his last two games that he had in his previous 16.
Ilya Samsonov played a big part in the Maple Leafs taking the game to overtime. He stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced in regulation. He then followed that up with two more saves on a four-on-three penalty kill in overtime. Finally, he gave up the winning goal to David Pastrnak at the tail end of the odd-man advantage. He finished the game with a 0.939 Save Percentage.
Home Ice Advantage
The most important “Good” Thursday night was the Maple Leafs securing second place in the Atlantic Division. With that, they now have the home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The single point Toronto received for being tied after regulation, combined with the two points the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to gain in their 6-1 loss to the New York Islanders, gives the Maple Leafs a seven-point lead over the Lightning with Tampa Bay. There are only three games left to play, and a possible six points available to them.
Get Ready For The Playoffs!
The Maple Leafs still have four games to maneuver through before their first-round series against the Lightning starts on either Monday, April 17 or Tuesday, April 18.
They are home to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night before they head out on the road for their last three games. Their road trip will take them to Florida for back-to-back games against the Panthers and Lightning. They will then finish the season in New York with a game against the Rangers that could decide home-ice advantage if both Toronto and New York were to meet in the East Conference Final.
Following Thursday night’s play, the Maple Leafs trail the Rangers by one point (103 pts to 104 pts) with one game in hand.
The more difficult task at hand will be trying to maintain some momentum heading into the playoffs while trying to keep everyone healthy. At the same time, the Maple Leafs need to figure out the optimum line combinations and defensive pairings for game one of the postseason.