May 13 2013 12:07PM
What the Leafs and Bruins are playing for
There isn't a whole heck of a lot to discuss in advance of Game 7.
To this point, we know the strengths and the weaknesses of each team. The Maple Leafs are weak when it comes to forward depth. The Bruins are weak when it comes to defensive depth. The Bruins top line has been unable to score goals and the Leafs have had the better goaltending through six games.
There is no reason whatsoever to trot out a player's statistics from "elimination" games or "clinching" games. Looking at playoff results to form any conclusion is just looking at a small sample size. Remember how coming into the series it was assumed that Phil Kessel couldn't play against the Bruins, and it showed because he had 3 goals in 22 games against Boston?
He has 3 in 6 games now. It's not because the playoffs mean anything different, but now you can look at it as Kessel having 6 goals in 28 games. It's still too small a sample to form any meaningful conclusion (really, Phil Kessel has 197 goals in 525 career games) but aren't you glad you let Kessel show you what he has rather than form an opinion based on a fraction of Kessel's career games coming into the series?
May 12 2013 09:14PM
For about four years we've heard the same tired story about how Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel couldn't win the big game, how they had talent to burn but never led the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If you're a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and have heard that crummy story from anybody lately and it bugs you, just print out the boxscore of this game, and show them the relevant section: Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel, the two best skaters on the Toronto Maple Leafs, scored the two most important goals for the franchise in over a decade in the third period of an elimination game.
James Reimer was excellent but didn't necessarily have to be. The end of regulation came from an expected push by the Boston Bruins, and the result of a tightly-fought defensive battle through two periods turned up in the favour of the home side.
Final score: 2-1. Series tied 3-3. We will have Game 7.
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.