via Jim Rogash/Getty via NHLInteractive
Coming into the series, the smart money was that if the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to a take a game or two from the Boston Bruins in this series, it would be on the back of James Reimer, especially if the win came at the TD Garden.
What I don’t think anybody was expecting was that against Boston, the team’s Mt. Kilimanjaro over the last two seasons, and in the playoffs, the Leafs would put together their most complete 60-minute effort with contributions from almost their entire roster. It was an amazing display of hockey and an amazing coaching performance for Randy Carlyle who was able to press all the right pressure points tonight. Using a combination of quick changes, zone matching and line juggling, Carlyle was able to maximize the time his scorers spent away from Zdeno Chara and they all came through.
Joffrey Lupul scored twice. Phil Kessel scored once and James van Riemsdyk scored an absolute beauty to seal the deal late in the game. Who cares who scored for the Bruins? Both were awful bounces. The Leafs took it to the Bruins in every way they could tonight, picking the right spots to hit, taking shots, and were more aggressive in transition rather than simply trying to collapse every moment in the offensive zone.
Again, while Reimer only had to make a couple of big stops… where the heck was this Leafs team all year?
-I want to start with Tyler Bozak, who I believe was the difference, playing his finest game in the NHL to date. He centred two distinct lines. The first was last year’s top line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, and the second was a new unit with Matt Frattin and Joffrey Lupul, which was used somewhat sparingly as a foil to draw Claude Julien into using Zdeno Chara in non-Phil Kessel situations.
-Bozak didn’t have an assist and was just 14-24 on faceoffs so by pure ‘Event Summary’ analysis, Bozak had a pretty mediocre game. But his underlying performance was spectacular. He took four shots on goal, three of them qualified as “scoring chances” and set up a fourth back in the first period. My generaly gripe with Bozak this season was that he was rarely involved in the offence and shaky on defence. He turned possessions that started in the defensive zone into chances and took on tough competition without Kessel and James van Riemsdyk on his wing. High-event, but I think that the difference on offence in this game between Game 1 and Game 2 was Bozak’s play.
-Unfortunately, the second Bruins goal went in off of him, which is pretty unfortunate, but that could happen to anybody. I usually don’t harp on players who have unfortunate things happen to them around either goal-mouth.
-The best Leafs line may have been van Riemsdyk with Nik Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski. Grabovski was his usual self, and the play he made to set up van Riemsdyk’s goal was outstanding—
—that goal unfortunately wasn’t indicative of the night that line had, which was generally neutralizing the Bruins’ best offensive line (David Krejci) and pushing the puck in the right direction. They didn’t score that goal with Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic on the ice. It was Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Jaromir Jagr, a very Carlylish combination thrown together down a goal with 3:30 to go in regulation. The Grabovski line had the best scoring chance differential of any Leafs tonight, and the Krejci line had the worst for the Bruins, by a long shot.
–Left Wing Lock says that line was together for 2.07% of the Leafs’ time at even strength this season, so about 48 minutes, and the fourth most-used unit Grabovski was on this year. I never petitioned for this group to be put together but they had a great night. Grabovski’s Corsi, however, was minus-6 but I think most of that came in garbage time as the Bruins pressed for that last goal but didn’t get it.
-Actually, Corsi suggests that the Bruins had a sizeable territorial advantage in this game. At 5-on-5 they were outshot 28-35 and if you count all attempted shots it was… 48-64. I will note, though, that the Bruins had 12 missed shots and 17 blocked shots and most of those efforts come from further away. The Leafs mostly dominated in scoring chances (16-10 at evens) because they got a lot of rebound opportunities. Just think of that sequence with four good whacks from Ryan Hamilton and Phil Kessel midway through the second period that didn’t result in a goal. That sequence also makes the scoring chance count drastically over-emphasize Ryan O’Byrne’s contribution which was virtually nil.
-Kessel’s goal was the result of Carlyle foiling Julien with the matchups all night. At the start of the period he tossed on Bozak with Lupul and Frattin, and Julien countered with Chara, figuring that the Leafs were going to sub Frattin for Kessel as soon as the faceoff took place. But they wasted a shift with Chara and Kessel made his way behind Dennis Seidenberg (who did not look good away from Big-Z) and took a pass from Nazem Kadri for a breakaway.
-I noted to myself after the second period that Kessel had already played 3 minutes away from Chara in the first 40. In Game 1, it was just 1.7 minutes total. By the end of it, Kessel had played 4.3 minutes away from Chara. That works out to a little over three shifts. It’s a marginal-at-best difference, but Toronto benefit from the margins and percentages tonight, scoring on one of those three full shifts.
-Joffrey Lupul somehow scored two goals and his shooting percentage on the season didn’t go down (2 goals on 8 shots = 11 goals on 44 shots). I noted going in that the Leafs would need contributions against the weak Bruins’ bottom four (made weaker by the Andrew Ference suspension) and they didn’t disappoint.
-The Leafs focused their efforts on trying to get offence against Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk, a gamble that paid off incredibly. Just by looking at scoring chances, you’d think that the Bruins’ third pairing of Wade Redden and Dougie Hamilton had a good night, not giving anything up, but Julien did limit their minutes.
-Hamilton was on the ice for just six even strength faceoffs, played just 13:32, well below his season average of 17:08 and spent most of his time on-ice against the Maple Leafs fourth line, the line that was the only weak spot at evens for Toronto. There was a hilarious sequence midway through the first where Colton Orr threw a body at Chara, and McClement simply fell over on transition defence, giving the Bruins an odd-man rush that ultimately didn’t result in anything. I thought that was the most “Leaf fourth liney” shift on the season: on the ice when they shouldn’t have been, trying too much to throw the body around and allowing easy passes in the neutral zone.
-I’ll take a closer look at the matchups tomorrow and see if I can look into Carlyle’s strategy. This is a game thread. The Leafs won, and we got this:
Good night all around. Have a beer, everybody. You earned it for waiting 3000+ days between playoff wins.
Individual Scoring Chances:
|TARANNA||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||3||3||0|
|NOTSOB||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Toronto (EV)||5 (5)||9 (8)||4 (3)||18 (16)|
|Boston (EV)||4 (4)||4 (3)||3 (3)||11 (10)|
LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Tyler Bozak
- Mikhail Grabovski
- Joffrey Lupul
(Feels weird to write about a win where James Reimer isn’t one of those)