The Toronto Maple Leafs kick off their playoff season Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins, at 7:00 Eastern, on the CBC. If you can’t find the game on TV, don’t come running to us complaining that we didn’t tell you what channel to watch or what time it was on.
I’ve only been running this website for a year and was unsure of what kind of template to use. I ventured over to Oilers Nation, the longest-running blog on this network, to try and find a good way to get people fired up, opposing fans angry and
Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a single playoff game thread on the entire website. Edmonton playoff games must have coincided with their vacation schedules.
PLAYOFF GAMES – WHAT’S IT LIKE
Some Leaf observers I follow on Twitter were quick to point out just how physical Los Angeles and St. Louis were at the start of their Game One last night. This is pretty standard for the first period of any series, actually, where teams will deviate from their normal game plans, establish a physical edge, and then forgetting about trying to do that because you still need to score goals to win in the playoffs.
It’s like starting your third line to forecheck like crazy in the early going of a normal game, only it lasts a period.
You will find though, that even against the Boston Bruins, playoff series’ are about as tame as regular season affairs. If you doubt me, think about all the times you’ve heard a commentator shriek “this is a real PLAYOFF-like atmosphere!” when two face-punchers are giving each other facewashes after one of them has run the goaltender.
The major difference I’d say between regular season and playoffs is that the commentators never say “this is a real REGULAR SEASON-like atmosphere!” In regular season games that are 4-1 and 5-1 late in the game, you have half a chance of making it to the end of the contest without another player trying to deliver a message.
But the rules are the same. The same number of penalties get called. The nets are still 4×6 feet and the pucks, James Reimer hopes, are still the same size:
Reimer on no NHL playoff experience: My job is to stop that little black puck, unless they change the size during the playoffs, I’m good.
— Andi Petrillo (@andipHNIC) May 1, 2013
In a 60-minute game with maybe 50 minutes spent at even strength, any one player will rarely be out for 20 of those minutes. Noticing that he’s spent 11 of those 20 minutes against a particular player is impossible to discern to the eye, even if at Nations HQ we spend piles of money on run down computers to track which player is playing against which.
Over a series though, the difference between playing 55 of 100 minutes against a particular player does become noticeable, especially since the mix of home and road affairs allows even the least technical of broadcasters to notice differences in how players are deployed.
Randy Carlyle will be working tirelessly in both home and road situations to try and get Phil Kessel away from Zdeno Chara. Claude Julien will be doing the opposite.
Why is this? I mentioned this week that Kessel’s low scoring rate against the Bruins is thanks in part to the Bruins being a stingy defensive team, but also one that gets to match Chara up against Kessel a lot because the Leafs have lacked depth in recent years. Eric T. had a charity guest post over at Pension Plan Puppets that looked deeper into that and, it seems, when Kessel is playing Bruins’ defencemen NOT named Zdeno Chara he crushes them.
NHL PLAYOFFS – WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT
It’s always hilarious when a mistake happens in 5-on-5 continuous overtime, because it’s never really forgotten by anybody. Jonathan Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season. He’ll be on a ten-year contract starting in the fall. He’s the best goaltender the Los Angeles Kings have probably had in their history.
But it doesn’t matter because remember that one time in that overtime period when Jonathan Quick gave up the puck to Alexander Steen who scored as easy of a shorthanded OT winner you’ll ever see?
If you’ve done something that excites Mark Lee, you’ve probably done something wrong.
A VERY WINNABLE SERIES
This is what Nazem Kadri told reporters today, that this is “a very winnable series” for the Leafs. That shouldn’t make him some sort of cocky player engaged in psychological warfare. The Bruins are, after all, a team that have gone to seven games in eight of their last ten series’ and won just three of those Game Sevens. Just because they won a Stanley Cup doesn’t mean that they aren’t a vulnerable opponent. Teams rarely repeat because winning the Cup is so damn hard, and teams are so close together in talent.
The problem for Toronto isn’t that they’re a bad team. The problem is that the Leafs’ strengths: upper-echelon forwards, secondary scoring, a good No. 1 defenceman and an excellent goaltender, are all the Bruins’ strengths as well.
Still, you have to admire Kadri’s confidence. You don’t want the Leafs going in knowing they’re the underdogs and thinking they have to change in some way to play more like the Bruins. The way to beat the Bruins is to play less like the Bruins, get success early in the series, make them uncomfortable and then have them react.
Claude Julien is pretty quick to over-react. This is a man who had Daniel Paille on his first line this season during a scoring slump, after all.
KEYS TO GAME ONE
The key to Game One is to score more goals than the other team, by any means necessary.
- Breaking down the first round [Sean Fitz-Gerald / National Post]
- Do the Leafs have a chance? [James Mirtle / Globe]
- Bruins won’t be underestimating Reimer [Lance Hornby / Toronto Sun]
From the Blogroll:
- The bandwagoner’s guide to the playoffs [Down Goes Brown]
- What it all means to me (from last week, but still a goodie) [Leafs HQ]
- MLHS chats with the enemy [Maple Leafs Hot Stove]
- The best and worst of the Leafs’ regular season [Maple Leafs Hot Stove]
- Leaf of the Day: Punch Imlach [Pension Plan Puppets]
- Look ahead to Game 3 of the Marlies and Americans [Kyle The Reporter]
- Marlies on verge of first round victory [Marlies HQ]