by Stan Smith

Oh, the frustrations of being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. The same things keep re-occurring with this team.   

Toronto finally scored first against the Boston Bruins for the first time this season. Unfortunately, they could not hold the lead and ultimately lost this game 4-2. The reasons they were unable to maintain the lead were similar to the reasons they lost game one. 

Both teams took the physicality to a new level to start this game. After the first period, Boston’s hit totals beat the Maple Leafs’ totals by 32-28. Neither team was able to get much going offensively. The two teams managed only seven shots apiece in the opening 20 minutes and went into the locker rooms scoreless.

Related: Marlies Finish Regular Season On Sour Note: Playoffs Coming

Maple Leafs Finally Score First in a Game

Most of the second period was played the same way as the first and the score remained zero for the first 13 minutes. With seven minutes remaining in the period, John Tavares picked up a loose puck in front of the Toronto goal. He skated it to center ice, spun to use his body to shield the puck from Pavel Zacha, and hit Joel Edmundson entering the Boston to the left of Bruins’ goalie Jeremy Swayman. 

Once across the blue line, Edmundson dropped the puck to Mitch Marner and headed for the front of the Boston net. Edmundson created a distraction in front of Swayman, and Marner hit Matthews Knies with a perfect backdoor pass. All Knies had to do was keep his stick on the ice, and the puck deflected off of it past Swayman into the net, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead. 

The Maple Leafs Lead Didn’t Last Very Long

That lead would last just over four minutes. Not long after Chris McAvoy wrapped his arms around Auston Matthews and tackled him behind the Boston goal with no call, Tyler Bertuzzi got tangled up with Brad Marchand as they exited the Toronto zone. With all the attention on the two of them jousting just outside the Toronto blue line, Morgan Geekie relayed a touch pass to Trent Frederik in the neutral zone. Frederik carried the puck into the Toronto zone and fired a harmless wrist shot at the net. Ilya Samsonov was unprepared to handle the shot as it beat him on the short side.  

Chaos ensued after that goal with both teams spending more time taking cheap shots at each other instead of playing hockey. As usually happens when these two teams get into extra-curricular activities, the Bruins always come out on top. After McAvoy took a roughing penalty for taking Connor Dewar down with a forearm to the face, Bertuzzi got into Charlie Coyle’s face during the Maple Leafs power play.  The Bruins kept possession of the puck after Bertuzzi’s hit for 50 seconds. That killed off 50 seconds of the Toronto power play and gave them that extra time with their man advantage. Bertuzzi’s penalty was finally called with just 15 seconds left in the second period. 

Boston would make good on their power play when Jake Debrusk cashed in on a rebound from a Marchand shot, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead at 1:07 in the third period.

At 11:25 of the third period the Maple Leafs would get a break when a Morgan Rielly shot bounced off Bertuzzi’s skate and Hampus Liindholm’s leg past Swayman to tie the game at 2-2.  

The Bruins Strike Back Quickly for a 3-2 Lead

Just 28 seconds after Toronto tied the game, with the puck in the corner of the ice to the left of Samsonov, no one on the Maple Leafs saw Marchand come off the bench and sneak in behind them. With all five of the Toronto skaters focused on the puck and their backs to the front of their net, Danton Heinen got his stick on the puck and dished it out front to Marchand. Marchand beat Samsonov over the shoulder of his glove hand to put Boston ahead 3-2. 

Boston would add an empty-net goal with 36 seconds left to round out the scoring at 4-2. To make matters worse, Marchand scored the empty-net goal. 

What Went Wrong?

As I stated earlier in the post, the things that went wrong in this game were similar to things that plagued the Maple Leafs in game one. 

Special Teams

Toronto went zero-for-five on the power play while allowing two goals on three Boston man advantages. The one Bruins’ power-play goal was the empty-net goal after Tavares was given a holding penalty while Toronto played six-on-five. 


The main reason the Maple Leafs were zero-for-five with the man advantage was Swayman. Toronto had excellent chances on the power play but could not beat Swayman with the extra attacker. 

Swayman came out on top in his battle with Samsonov for the second game in a row. While I couldn’t fault Samsonov specifically for any goals he gave up in game one, Frederic’s goal that opened the scoring for the Bruins in this game is one that Samsonov has to stop.  

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs

I’ve said it more than once: If Toronto is to have any shot at beating Boston, Samsonov has to be at least equal to the Bruins’ goalies. He was in the win in Game 2 but was not in the two losses. 


It is hard to blame refereeing when the power plays are 5-3 in Toronto’s favor, but missed calls on McAvoy and Marchand led directly to Boston’s goals.  

The “Marchand” Factor

The Old Prof and I wrote about the Marchand factor and how the Maple Leafs were playing right into his hands. We discussed how they needed to ignore his antics and not allow him to get under their skin. Instead, he becomes maybe the biggest factor in this game. It has always boggled my mind how Marchand gets away with some things he does. But he does. The Maple Leafs have to find a way to overcome that.  

Home Ice “Disadvantage”

Home ice is supposed to be an advantage. You have the last change, 20,000 fans behind you, and you are playing in a familiar rink. Why is it not like that for the Maple Leafs? In the past four playoffs plus the first three games in 2024, the Maple Leafs have been a miserable 5-13 at Scotiabank Arena. Meanwhile, they are 9-6 on the road. It boggles the mind how they can be so good on the road in the playoffs but terrible at home. 

Sheldon Keefe’s Job On The Line

The Maple Leafs’ poor showing at home in the playoffs extends further back than four seasons, and maybe I am cherry-picking by just writing about the last four years. But, it has been the last four years that Sheldon Keefe has been the head coach. Despite the success the Maple Leafs have had in the regular season under Keefe, if they don’t get past the Bruins in round one of this season, you have to feel it would be the end of the line for Keefe. 

What’s Next?

The teams get a rare two days off between games three and four. This could work to the Maple Leafs’ advantage. It gives them a chance to reset and take a breath. It also gives William Nylander two days to get healthy enough to play hopefully. Frankly, I was surprised he was a scratch in Tuesday’s game. The vibe I was getting was that he would be good to go.   

I would not be surprised to see a completely different third pairing on defense for Toronto in the next game. The duo of Timothy Liljegren and Joel Edmundson have been by far the worst pair for the Maple Leafs. At five-on-five, the other four defensemen are between 55% and 73% for Expected Goals and 68% and 90% for High-Danger Scoring Chances, according to

Edmundson is at 37% for Expected Goals and 36% for High-Danger Scoring Chances. Liljegren is worse, at 33% for Expected Goals and 22% for High-Danger Scoring Chances. It might be time to insert a rested TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano into the lineup in their places. It would give the defense more speed and ability to move the puck. I am guessing both veterans would also be hungry for some action.  

All is not lost. One win and the series becomes a best two out of three with Toronto having the road-ice advantage. 

Related: Maple Leafs Even Series With Gutsy Win In Boston

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