May 12 2013 09:47AM
It's the second consecutive do-or-die game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, or their second "must win" of the season. One of the things that's interesting to note about the Boston Bruins is that their playoff record is not real good in recent years.
They won a Stanley Cup, but it took them three Game 7s (and a Game 7 OT) to do it. They're just 3-4 in Game 7s since the beginning of the Claude Julien era, and I think something like 3-7 in potential clinching games not counting Game 7s. The Bruins, in Tuukka Rask's first season as a starting goalie, bled out after gaining a 3-0 series lead on the Philadelphia Flyers and went down 2-0 to Montreal the year after.
I think this season's Bruins, when healthy, are the best Bruins team they've had in those years, but their late-season record is awful. That comes with the territory when you employ two goaltenders considered absolutely insane even when factoring in the positional standards.
May 10 2013 08:58PM
Jared Wickerham, Getty via NHL Interactive
With a nervous 2-1 win Friday night at the TD Garden, the Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team of the 2013 NHL playoffs to successfully stave off elimination. It wasn't a Rembrandt, but it wasn't exactly a Picasso either. The Leafs controlled the first period of the game but didn't score until two defensive breakdowns by the Bruins.
When the series began I had picked the Bruins in five—on the theory that the Bruins would control the series five-on-five and the scoring chances in each game, but James Reimer would end up stealing one for the Maple Leafs. That was Game 5, apparently, but it's no less likely from here on out that Reimer steals Game 6 or 7.
The Leafs got a shorthanded goal from Tyler Bozak and an even strength goal from Clarke MacArthur at the beginning of the third period. From there I think we all knew that Boston was going to absolutely pour it on offensively and they did, getting a goal from Zdeno Chara midway through the frame. Jaromir Jagr especially played a very good game in the offensive zone, but the expected threats from the Bruins, Tyler Seguin, David Krejci and Nathan Horton, were invisible around the net.
The nail biting muscles got a workout towards the end of the third. A delay-of-game penalty by Bozak, an icing, and a defensive zone draw with 12 seconds to go offered up several chances for the Bruins to tie it up, but Reimer was strong. Ready to do it all again on Sunday?
May 10 2013 01:06PM
I never really got behind the concept of "must-win" games. They're always trotted out for meaningless regular season games against teams fighting for the same spot in the standings.
Late in the season, I heard the term "must-win" trotted out for the Maple Leafs game at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. The Leafs lost in a shootout but didn't drop in the standings, and held the five-seed to the end of the year.
Toronto didn't have a lot of "must-win" games this year though, even in the clichéd sense. For all the talk about how tight the standings would be in a short season, by the final week of the season it was pretty apparent who would land the low seeds in the East.
Tonight though, is a must-win game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
May 09 2013 10:56AM
Photo via Claus Anderson/Getty via NHL Interactive
The first step I'm sure is making sure Mark Fraser is okay. He took an ugly puck off the face and bled his way to the hospital, where he was being checked for broken bones in his forehead.
It was an ugly scene, but there was something lighthearted about the way that Hockey Night's Craig Simpson suggested that the member of the ice crew who scraped the blood into James Reimer's net was somehow in the wrong.
Either way, we were left with a Maple Leafs rotation of five defencemen: Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson, Ryan O'Byrne, and Jake Gardiner, who played one hell of a game and filled Fraser's shoes defensively while providing offence.
May 08 2013 09:40PM
Photo via Claus Anderson/Getty via NHL Interactive
At the start of the third period, we saw the team that Brian Burke meant to build. Burke repeatedly said during his tenure in Toronto that he wanted to build an exciting team, with speed and heart. For 20 minutes we got that. For 33 minutes we got that, actually, as a Toronto Maple Leafs team, lead by core guys like Phil Kessel, Jake Gardiner, Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk, all acquired by Burke, took it to the Boston Bruins and put them on the brink of tying the series.
But all that counts is that one mistake. In a split second, Dion Phaneuf tried make the overtime more physical. Maybe he thought he'd create a turnover and give the Leafs a chance. Phaneuf stepped up to make a hit on Nathan Horton, and the result of that was disaster. The Bruins' best two offensive players all night, David Krejci and Milan Lucic, came away on a 2-on-1 in the overtime period with Ryan O'Byrne the only man back.
No matter how much of the flow the Leafs controlled in the previous period and a half, it doesn't matter. You often don't survive when Krejci, both a shooter and premier playmaker, has the puck on his stick. James Reimer did his best to squeeze at the shot, but it trickled in. Boston won 4-3 and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
I said that the Maple Leafs' best performance of the season was in Game 2. I may have lied. The Toronto Maple Leafs' best game of the season was in Game 4. They have nothing to show for it, but an unlikely situation forced Randy Carlyle into using lines and defensive pairings he had yet to experiment with on the season, and the result was really something.