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Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Leafs Postgame: Heartbreaker

4,757.

That’s the number of days it’s been since the Toronto Maple Leafs last played a playoff game after a full 82-game season. Tonight marked the end of that streak.

The Buds took to Washington for game 1 of their first-round matchup against the Capitals. Calling Toronto the underdog would be an understatement – no one picked them to win the series. Regardless, the Leafs came out and played a hell of a game that ended in typical Toronto fashion.

Here’s what happened in Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Capitals.

THE RUNDOWN

No one took the Leafs to win this series. Not the fans, not the experts.

That’s why many, okay, everyone was surprised when the Leafs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead courtesy of who else but Mitchell Marner.

Aaaaand the crowd goes wild!

Remember, last year Marner was an absolute beast with London during the playoffs, scoring 44 (!!!) points in 18 games. The guy is a big game player and, this goes without saying, but he will have to be a massive piece if the Leafs have any hopes of getting past Washington. His first ever postseason goal came just 1:35 into his first ever postseason game.

Then, midway through the period, Toronto strikes again.

Jake Gardiner was fantastic for the Leafs during their series against Boston a few years ago, and he’s been great this season as well. The goal was immediately called back for goaltender interference but, after the Leafs challenged, the call was reversed. Toronto takes a 2-0 lead? Toronto takes a 2-0 lead.

However, just a few minutes later, the Caps get their first of the playoffs. I’ll give you ONE guess as to who scored. Anyone? Yes, that’s right – Justin Williams.

This one stung not only because the Leafs were rolling, but because it came just seconds after they had killed off a 5-on-3. Also, I know it’s trendy to laugh at Roman Polak, but this one isn’t on him. Anyways, Toronto took an impressive 2-1 lead to the second.

In said second frame, Toronto played about as well as a road team trying to keep a lead possibly could. They basically shut the Caps down and, had it not been for a post, would have gone up 3-1. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Can someone tell Justin Williams this isn’t game seven and he can calm down? Here’s his second of the game – a lucky one, might I add.

It’s really hard to blame Freddie on this one. He was great up until this point but, ideally, that’s one you’d like your goalie to have. Regardless, Williams’ second of the game tied this baby up.

The third period was where Toronto started to slip. The Caps started to play their brand of hockey and controlled most of the play. Toronto kept trying to dump ‘n chase, but Washington had no problem retrieving the puck and making an easy first pass. Look, you can actually see the tables start to turn!

Regulation Freddie Andersen was absolutely massive for the Leafs, making a number of key stops to get this game to overtime.

However, overtime Freddie Andersen pissed this game away. Sorry, I don’t care how well he played (and he played really, really well) – this goal is garbage and should never go in. Vesa Toskala makes this save ten times out of ten.

Of course it was Tom Wilson who scored, too. God hates the Toronto Maple Leafs.

THE STATS

All things considered, the Leafs played a very good game.

Again, the third period is where things started to turn, but for the most part, it was an extremely encouraging effort. Tom Wilson. I still can’t believe it.

BLUE WARRIOR

I thought Toronto’s fourth line of Martin-Boyle-Kapanen had a great game. Yeah, Martin took a dumb penalty, but as a whole, they played very well. Hunwick deserves an honourable mention as well. He had a really good game and has pulled a complete 180 from the player he once was.

UP NEXT

Toronto’s in Washington for at least one more game, as game two is set for Saturday night. Let’s hope it isn’t the last contest the Buds play in (the other) nation’s capital this season.

  • Harold Ballard

    Zaitsev would have cleared the puck the other way or not have even made that play at all. Here’s to hoping he is ready for Saturday because once again Marincin with the game winning giveaway! The guy must have a ton this season alone.

  • lukewarmwater

    Solid article Jeff. Ironic I was thinking that Andersen shrunk smaller than Toskala on that ridiculous angle of a shot when you came up with the Toskala comment. Damn you are dead on as I too don’t care if the guy stood on his head all night. In a freaking playoff game your goalie can’t allow that type of crap goal.
    Bottom line as good as Andersen has been he constantly crapped the bed in shoot outs as his average at one point was below 50% as he couldn’t stop a beach ball. Plus far too many soft goals allowed in the 5 minute o.t. and of course tonight. But the good news is that as I’ve stated numerous times this is year one of the rebuild and the young lads have been amazing. Babs and Leaping Lou priority number one will be to strengthen the defence and if Andersen has the same problems in the shoot out next year and o.t. games well there are goalies out there that can get the job done. Sure he is owed $5 million per year but how many players have we over paid in the past.
    No player will admit it but that is a total demoraliser when your goalie craps like that on an innocent shot.
    The analogy is your starting pitching is spectacular but your closer blows every third game. Sorry Frederick just damn not good enough in the crunch.

    • Gary Empey

      Brother Luke, Evan Presement wrote this article with a few quotes from Jeff’s twitter. I suspect you sell Andersen a little short. Like a lot of the other Leafs this is his first NHL season as the #1 guy in his position. Like the others he has been improving under the Leaf’s coaching. I see a tremendous improvement in Andersen’s rebound control. His catching hand is also getting better than when he first arrived. It is true we are not quite there yet. The shoot out losses I believe is a mental issue. Something like having he “yipes” on a gold green. Andersen seems good on a regular breakaway. It he can’t get over it then I wouldn’t hesitate to put the back-up in for any shootouts. Look on the bright side. If anyone crapped the bed it was those Montreal Canadiens. Home ice. In front of 18,000 passionate but delusional fans. I would like to give a shout-out to all those writers and Montreal fans who took time out of their busy schedule to remind me just how great the Habs are.

      • Gary Empey

        I meant to say golf green….not gold green. I think gold green it that stuff I bought off the street vendor last week that turned my sweethearts ears green.

        • Stan Smith

          I can’t believe you guys are blaming Andersen for this one. He played a great game. He made two great saves just prior to the last goal being scored. Tell me one person that would have thought Wilson could wire a laser shot from where he was. If it was Matthews that scored that goal we would talking about how amazing a shot it was. On the second goal, you can tell Andersen thought the puck bounced high in the air just the way his head went, and where in hell were the defence on that? Letting Williams either a) walk in there unmolested or b) letting him beat you to a puck in your own crease, is ridiculous.

          The Leafs played a great game against the leagues best team. Once again, as they have all season, they have played better then anyone expected. They should gain some confidence in this game, and if Andersen is anywhere near as good on Saturday as he was tonight, they have a really good chance of going back to Toronto tied in the series.

          • Armkey

            Couldn’t agree with you more. Exactly what I was thinking as soon as the second goal went in…where’s the D. The closest player I could see was Nylander. The Caps scored three crappy goals: Andersen was tremendous, with Toskala, there wouldn’t be OT.

          • lukewarmwater

            Armkey no one is denying that for 65 minutes Andersen was superb but you can’t in low scoring playoff hockey allow a horrendous o.t. goal like he did tonight. I’m sure leaf management will in a year or two be making decisions regarding Andersen if he continues to struggle big time in shoot outs and fails in o.t. Now I’m the first to agree that with the young squad and inexperienced defence he has been hung out to dry. But far too often he has not been clutch when he has to be. It had to be very demoralising for a squad that worked its butt off to have a garbage goal like that beat them. Forget the leaf defencmen not clearing the puck, future Hall of Famer Wilson took a shot that should never have got past Andersen who did his best Toskala imitation as he made himself as small as possible. As I’ve stated this is the first year of the rebuild and over the next couple of years some guys will be gone from the defence the forward lines and possibly in goal. This is an exciting and entertaining young team that will only get better. Go leafs Go.

    • Glen

      I have to agree with you on this one Luke old boy. Anderson simply was not good enough for this one game. Winning goal was terrible and he looked awkward on the tying goal. The Leafs looked good now lets see what happens in game two. I wonder if Anderson is 100%?

      • lukewarmwater

        Glen he indeed has had those injuries as he seems to have a bullseye on his body as player after player take cheap shots at him. Plus he has never played this many games in his career. I thought Gary also had a good comment in that this is becoming a psychological situation.
        There have been great ball players who all of a sudden develop an inability to throw properly. I don’t how he solves his inability to come up big in o.t. and of course the shoot outs. I’m starting to feel sorry for the guy as I totally agree he was great for the whole game and then comes o.t. where he also made some big saves only to have future hall of famer Wilson beat you.

  • STAN

    On paper, and with most pundits (not necessarily intelligent people, but pundits nonetheless) this should have been an easy opening win for the Caps. You know, 6-1, 5-2. Something like that. It wasn’t. The Leafs proved they are a force to be reckoned with. NEXT!!!

  • Gary Empey

    I was proud of all our guys. They played the top rated team in the NHL to a draw for 3 periods in an important playoff game. Unfortunately I missed the OT as I ran out of bandwidth just then. I can’t speak to the quality of the winning goal. From what I saw of Andersen up till then he was a big reason we made it to overtime. As Ballard says down below Zaitsev likely would have made the difference. I like the fact that both coaches don’t like their players to play a dirty game, with lots of cheap shots. There is a world of difference between tough, hard hitting, physical hockey from teams that have players who try to win the game by injuring someone. My only comment on the refs is how can you call that cross-check on Martin while allowing so many other cross-checks and interference to go uncalled. I wondered if after the NHL video review headquarters reversed their call on Gardiner’s goal if they decided to punish Babcock for challenging it. Both those penalties came immediately after Gardiner’s goal was re-instated. All in all our Leafs are giving us very exciting hockey to watch, once again. It has been far too long…..

      • Gary Empey

        I just watched the replay. Andersen was beat on a good wrist-shot. He did have a good look at it and at that distance one would expect him to stop that. Marincin made what is normally the correct play….Up the boards. Marincin doesn’t have what people refer to as good hockey IQ. If his peripheral vision was better he may have tried a different option. Naturally on video replay we all can see better options.

  • al m

    Great write up, but I disagree about Anderson. He’s simply not going to stop everything.
    Amazing game overall. Couldn’t have hoped for anything better for game 1 (except a win, of course 😉
    Pollack again deserves the matchup with Ovie
    On to game two…

  • Brent Wisken

    Great game, it was fun to watch. Thought our young players played well, and our veterans lead the way. Really liked Marner, Andersen, Rielly, Komarov, Kadri, Bozak, and Gardiner. The whole team played well, but these players stood out for me. Liked Polak and Hunwick’s game as well. The last couple of months they have played really well. Some people have been pretty hard on Reilly the last little while (unreasonably in my opinion given his age and his rapid promotion against top competition) but the last month he has played great. I have always liked Rielly and I am glad our team now has a management that doesn’t quickly give up on its young players and trade them. Patience and player development, good to see.

  • Seeing a lot of ripping on Freddie. I doubt you’d see the same level of criticism going Holtby’s direction. Both his goals against were uncharacteristically bad and were definitely on him for being out of position. I highly doubt there are serious complaints thinking that Holtby can be replaced like there are on here. There are not too many goals against that you can rightfully call “hard” goals. Most goals are inherently “soft” for any goalie. They represent the small percentage of a goalie’s game where they actually fail to do their job. It’s like looking at a player like Gardiner and solely focusing on his infrequent giveaways/gaffs but ignoring the other 95% of their game. Unlike players, goalies actually have a stat that tracks the other 90-95% of their game: their save percentage. So, how about we focus on the 93% of his game where he was actually successful?

    • Ohhh nooo. Looks like I have someone who’s trashing all my comments and giving me negative fake internet cred. Whatever will I do??? If only there was a way for them to reeeally show me how wrong I was… like commenting.