Here we go again.
The exasperated sighs rang out across Leafs Nation yesterday afternoon, as the Leafs ultimately fell 4-2 to the Boston Bruins, in a game that saw them squander an early lead to a miserable penalty kill that allowed the Bruins to score twice on their first two attempts in the game.
With Game 7 scheduled for tomorrow night at 7pm in Boston, the team will have one final shot to rewrite the script, and put the Bruins away.
One chance to rewrite the script everything – Game 7 and all – isn’t that appropriate?
What Doesn’t Need Rewriting
Before getting into what needs to change, let’s set a few things straight.
Some of y’all are reacting like the Leafs just got swept 4-0 rather than being tied in a close series between two of the league’s top teams.
— Draglikepull (@draglikepull) April 21, 2019
The Leafs have been good in this series at playing their game. Through six games, the Leafs have outscored Boston 11-8 at 5v5, and – unlike last year – have allowed their speed and skill to dictate the course of most games. The Leafs have come ready to play in four of their six games in this series – not spectacular, but telling of a team that’s finally coming into their own, as opposed to a team trying to be something that they’re not.
2. Can you definitively point to any time last season where the Leafs caused Bruce Cassidy to break into a sweat? The Bruins’ bench boss has clearly been rattled by this seasons’ iteration of this matchup, and has been juggling lines and lineups incessantly. Meanwhile, after an entire year of refusing to allow his players to mesh, Mike Babcock – for better or worse – has stuck to his guns.
We may not have the Matthews-Nylander duo we’ve been begging for, but with Nazem Kadri taking himself out of this series, you’ve got to shoot your shot. That’s what this Leafs team is doing, and we know what they are. The Bruins? They’ve been trying to figure that out since puck drop on April 11th.
3. The Leafs may have lost two of three at home, but they’ve won two of three at TD Garden. For a barn that’s historically been their kryptonite, that’s huge. Let’s keep the ball rolling.
4. Frederik Andersen has shown up, and he’s shown up big-time. With a .925 sv% through six games, Andersen hasn’t just been himself – he’s been a difference-maker.
5. This is Auston Matthews’ team, and he’s finally showing us that.
AUSTON MATTHEWS 🚨
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) April 21, 2019
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) April 20, 2019
Matthews has been a game-changer for the Leafs in this series, with 5 goals in his last four games saying all that needs to be said about the franchise centre’s presence in this series. This matchup is a different beast with Matthews firing on all cylinders and with one game in this series left to play, he’s still got a chance to put the finishing touches on a fantastic coming-out series.
What Needs Rewriting
1. Most importantly, the penalty kill needs to show up. They were abysmal on Sunday afternoon – allowing the Bruins’ first and second goals on just two Power Play attempts, and it sunk the Leafs for the rest of the game.
A 56% on the PK is enough to doom any matchup, but the Leafs have not only hung in this series in spite of that statistic – they’ve arguably still been the better team.
A Game 7, however, isn’t about being the better team over multiple games – it’s about showing up when it matters. Killing the first penalty will be essential, but maintaining a solid kill throughout Game 7 is of the utmost importance.
2. John Tavares and Mitch Marner have worked wonders in stifling the Bruins’ top line throughout this series. This is not to diminish their defensive efforts, it’s simply to ask – can they contribute on the scoresheet as well? Doing so would elevate the Leafs’ dynamic top-line duo into hero status for years to come.
Mitch Marner 🚨
Tips the point shot and then buries the bounce off the post. 1-1. pic.twitter.com/5rsdx428nx
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) April 11, 2019
3. It’s time to do away with the perception that the Leafs can’t win a Game 7.
We need to ask ourselves: what logic are we operating on? Is it a logic that wraps 2013’s series in with this group? A team from which only Jake Gardiner remains (with Nazem Kadri suspended)?
Is it a logic based solely on one game one year ago? A game in which we might look back and ask ourselves, was that really Frederik Andersen in net? A game in which everything imaginable seemed to go wrong for the Leafs in the final frame – the first Game 7 for this budding group of stars that has since added John Tavares and Jake Muzzin, in addition to full seasons from Travis Dermott, Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen?
When the Leafs march back into TD Garden tomorrow night, the slate is clean. They’ve been the better team in that arena this series; they’ve been the better team in this series.
It’s time to show up, and prove it one last time. It’s time to put this series behind us; to put the Boston Bruins behind us, and believe that the Leafs can win this series.
Rewriting the script on the Bruins; on Game 7; on all that’s ailed us about this matchup, rational or not.
Was there ever a better way?