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6 burning questions for the Maple Leafs ahead of Game 6

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs were able to get past the Boston Bruins with a thrilling overtime win in Game 5, thanks to the likes of Joseph Woll and Matthew Knies. While the Maple Leafs have a ton of momentum heading home for Game 6 on Thursday night, there are several questions they’ll need to answer if they are going to get the job done in the biggest home game of the season.
Here are six burning questions for the Leafs heading into Game 6:

Will Auston Matthews Play?

Even though the Maple Leafs are now 36-19-2 without Auston Matthews in the lineup, they’d prefer if he was capable of playing 25 minutes in Game 6. At the release of this article, it’s still unknown if he’ll be healthy enough to suit up. Whatever illness or alignment is bugging the Leafs superstar is obviously a very serious matter for him to be pulled after two periods in Game 4 and not suit up for Game 5.
Toronto is a much better team with the number one centre in the lineup and without him in Game 5, it gave Max Domi a chance to shine and he performed admirably down the middle on the first line. Domi would shift to the wing if Matthews is a go.

Can John Tavares Step Up Again?

Before John Tavares beat Bruins defenceman Matt Grzelcyk on the outside in overtime to get the puck on net for Knies to bury the winner, he hadn’t factored into much during the entire series. Tavares only had one goal in five games and it took the extra frame for him to make an impact. He wasn’t winning crucial faceoffs, he was non-existent with the man advantage, and his foot speed was again being questioned from every angle. There’s a ton of pressure on Tavares to perform these playoffs. He’s eligible to sign an extension in July and at this point, if things go south in a hurry to end the Maple Leafs season, anything is going to be on the table including the potential of Toronto changing captains. Right now they need their captain more than ever.

Will Sheldon Keefe Stop Playing the Fourth Line After Power Plays?

This is going to cost Keefe if he’s not careful. Every time the Maple Leafs get a power-play, which has been a mess of its own the entire series, the Leafs bench boss tends to throw Ryan Reaves, Connor Dewar and David Kampf over the boards. It’s head-scratching stuff, and Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery has caught on, ensuring David Pastrnak is on the ice after the penalty kill and has even been moving Brad Marchand to his line just to get a couple of good looks and steer the momentum. Reaves and company are going to get caught one of these times and Keefe is going to look like a fool for the decision. Why not Matthew Knies, Pontus Holmberg and anyone else besides Reaves?

What Will It Take to Win On Home Ice?

The Maple Leafs have been dreadful on home ice this series, losing Game 3 4-2 and Game 4 3-1. Their home ice woes date back several postseasons. Last year the Leafs couldn’t get the job done on home ice against the Florida Panthers and even in their first-round victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, they only won once on home ice and took the other three victories on the road.
The Maple Leafs need to come out flying in Game 6 but they must remain disciplined and and continue to execute like they did in Game 5. They need to keep checking but don’t go out of their way to try and make a hit just for the sake of making a hit, which usually results in being taken out of the play. Don’t look for the pretty play and shoot the puck when a chance presents itself. Even in the Game 5 victory, how many times were Leafs fans yelling at Max Domi or Mitch Marner to shoot the puck? Get the rubber on net in Game 6 and get some bodies in front of Jeremy Swayman, assuming it’s Swayman in Game 6.
Special teams need to show up, end of story. Toronto must keep things simple on the power play and Keefe should consider changing up his PP units to give the team a spark. Whatever they’ve been doing isn’t working. The penalty kill needs to stand tall if they are called upon and the best-case scenario is if it’s only once or twice during Game 6. Stay out of the box!
The Maple Leafs need to play a clean road game on home ice on Thursday night and use their speed and tenacity to out-chance the Bruins and find a way to execute in the biggest home game of the year. If they don’t, the boobirds are going to be loud.

Can Joseph Woll Have a Repeat Performance?

The story of Game 5 was the stellar play of Maple Leafs’ netminder Joseph Woll, who was making his first start in the series. After a clean period to close out the Game 4 loss, Keefe went back to Woll in Boston and looks like a genius for the decision. Woll shook off an uneventful first period where he let in one goal on the second shot of the game and went on to keep everything else out from there, including a couple of 10-bell saves to close out the third period and at the start of the extra frame. It saved the Maple Leafs season, as simple as that.
Woll is 8-8-1 in his career on home ice and he’ll need to play with the same calmness and confidence as he had in Game 5 back at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto is a confident bunch when Woll’s on top of his game and his close friend Knies even admitted after the last game the team is fortunate to have Woll back there and feels safe when he’s in the crease.
Woll has had some issues with letting in early goals this season and that absolutely cannot be the case in Game 6, or it will deflate the team and take the crowd out of the game. Some people will joke that the crowd never gets into the game, but that’s neither here nor there. At the end of the day, if the Maple Leafs win Game 6 and force a Game 7, it will be because Woll stood tall once again and led the team to back-to-back victories. The 25-year-old has played in some big games in his young career, but this may be his biggest as a Leafs loss will mean some major changes across the organization.
There are six burning questions for you to mull over ahead of Game 6 as the Maple Leafs look to continue the first-round comeback. There’s so much riding on this game and the pressure is cooking throughout the team. Leafs fans are hopeful the team can just find a way to win, it doesn’t need to be pretty.

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