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7 Storylines to follow as Maple Leafs force Game 7 in Boston

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Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The two best words in sports? Game seven.
The Maple Leafs played a perfect road game on home ice and snapped their six-game playoff losing streak at Scotiabank Arena. It wasn’t pretty but it was very effective. Sheldon Keefe raved about his team’s performance after the game and now turns his attention to getting his team prepared for Game 7 in Boston. There’s been plenty of storylines throughout the first-round series, and there’s certainly lots to discuss with a do-or-die game approaching between these two historic rivals. Let’s take a look at the biggest storylines to follow with Game 7 approaching:

Maple Leafs Looking to Exercise Demons

The Bruins have bullied the Maple Leafs for over a decade, most recently winning Game 7 in 2019, thanks to a 5-1 victory. It’s worth noting that Auston Matthews played primarily with Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson that game and only the ‘core five’ are left over from the roster.
Circle back even further to 2018, and the Leafs had a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. Everything ended up going wrong in the third, as they allowed four goals in defeat. The 2013 collapse is also a very sore spot for many Leafs fans and even some of the players on the team at the time have mentioned that it’s going to haunt them forever. They were up 4-1 with less than 11 minutes left in the third period! Before 2013, you’d have to go back to 1974 to when the last time these two original six teams met in the playoffs. That series was short and sweep… and not a positive experience for Leafs fans.
Something’s got to give, no? With Keefe experiencing his first taste of this rivalry in the playoffs, he’ll look to ensure his team continues to embrace the moment and work their tails off to be remembered for all the right reasons.

Can the Maple Leafs Continue to Keep David Pastrnak Contained?

While Pastrnak has four points in six games so far in this series, the Leafs have managed to keep him off the scoreboard in both elimination games.
In Game 6, John Tavares was the primary defender. Who would have thought at the start of the season that was going to be a recipe for success? Matthew Knies, Morgan Rielly, Ilya Lyubushkin and William Nylander also played a major part in shutting him down in Game 6 and Keefe will do what he can to get the matchups he wants, playing on the road in Game 7.
How bad is it for Pastrnak at the moment? After posting 110 points during the regular season, leading the Bruins in scoring by a whopping 43 points, he’s been quiet of late, so quiet his head coach Jim Montgomery is calling him out in post-game pressers:
Should the Maple Leafs get a power play and it’s unsuccessful, Keefe likes to send the fourth line over the boards to try and win the next shift. Montgomery, on the other hand, likes to send David Pastrnak out with Brad Marchand after his team kills a penalty. This matchup could be worrisome for the Maple Leafs and is something to watch in Game 7.

Special Teams Could Decide It All

The Maple Leafs’ power play has been horrendous throughout the entire series, going 1-20 through six games. They seem disconnected, there’s a limited sense of urgency and they aren’t getting enough traffic in front of Jeremy Swayman when they do shoot the puck.
While they might not expect to hear many whistles in Game 7, if Toronto winds up with the man advantage, it’s an absolute must to finally break through. Knies has been playing possessed of late and should be in consideration for the top unit. He can cause a ruckus in front of the net and his offensive awareness, much like we saw on his beauty neutral-zone pass to spring Nylander in for the breakaway goal, is one of the tools he carries in his box. Keefe must consider changing it up and look for a spark because right now it’s not working.
Toronto’s done a great job these last two elimination games of staying out of the box and limiting the undisciplined penalties that were an ongoing issue during the early parts of the series. The Leafs haven’t allowed a Bruins’ power-play goal in either elimination game and will need much of the same in Game 7. The likes of Mitch Marner, Pontus Holmberg, Joel Edmundson and Jake McCabe led the way in Game 6, so you can look for Keefe to rely on this unit a lot moving forward.

Health is Wealth

Speaking of the Leafs’ lineup, will Matthews and Bobby McMann be options for Game 7? Matthews skated before Game 6 but was deemed unavailable. Playing in the do-or-die tilt in Boston seems like a bit of a stretch, but the team doctors will do whatever they can to get him as ready as possible.
McMann on the other hand hasn’t played since April 13 against the Detroit Red Wings when he left the game with a lower-body injury. McMann scored 15 goals in 56 games and if he’s healthy enough to play, will likely dress. If both Matthews and McMann come back in, Keefe has some major decisions to make.
It feels like Connor Dewar and Nick Robertson would be the likely candidates to come out of the lineup. When healthy, the Leafs are as deep as they’ve ever been and it would be a very tough pill to swallow for both players to come out of the lineup for the biggest game of the season. Robertson has yet to register a point in the series, even though he’s played well and got himself into some good spots to score. Dewar, on the other hand, has been an effective defensive specialist and has averaged roughly a minute of ice-time killing penalties. The Leafs’ morning skate on Saturday will tell a lot of what to expect with their lineup in Game 7.

Joseph Woll Has Arrived

After stopping all five shots he faced in the third period of Game 4, Woll has won back-to-back elimination games and has looked extremely sharp in the process. He’s posted a minuscule 0.86 GAA and a very impressive .964 Sv.%.
What’s been most impressive about the young netminder is the fact he’s able to stay calm and quiet in the net and remain focused throughout long stretches of not being tested. In the last two games, the Bruins have only managed three total shots in the first period. The second period has been a much different story in both games and Woll’s managed to be up for the task, stopping all 22 shots headed his way.
While it’s a small sample size, there’s no denying the fact Woll can handle the pressure of a big game:
The Maple Leafs are a confident bunch with Woll between the pipes and he’s managed to make a massive impact in the late stages of this first-round series. Let’s see if he has any 10-bell performances in his back pocket for Game 7.

It All Starts With One

The Maple Leafs went 46-26-10 this season when scoring the first goal and in all three of their playoff victories have managed to open the scoring. Doing it one more time is so crucial.
The Bruins coaching staff has not been happy with the team’s start as Montgomery hasn’t minced any words with the media related to his team’s starts. Needless to say, the Bruins haven’t started on time the past two games and their bench boss is not very happy about it:
The Maple Leafs have done a great job to swing the momentum of this series back into their favour when it was looking bleak after four games. The tenacity and forecheck to start each game has been a huge part of their success and look for Keefe to get his team prepared and ready to start on time in Game 7.

Who Will Step Up for Their Moment?

In Game 2 it was Matthews’ moment. In Game 5 it was Knies’ moment and in Game 6 it was Nylander’s moment. While Woll also played a huge part in the past two victories, which Maple Leaf is ready for their moment in Game 7? Tavares only has one goal and could the captain be ready to put the team on his back? The same can be said about Marner or Max Domi, who both have only scored once and have frustrated Leafs fans throughout parts of the series when they decide they don’t feel like shooting the puck and are over-passing. Is it Bertuzzi’s time to seek some revenge on his former team and get rewarded for going to the dirty areas of the ice?
Jake McCabe is the only defenceman who has lit the lamp to this point, perhaps Morgan Rielly looks to jump into the rush and get pucks on net. Then of course, there’s Woll, who has come up massive since taking over in Game 4 and is he saving his best for last in this series?
The Maple Leafs need someone to step up and embrace their moment. The memories of Game 7s in Boston may not haunt every single player on their current roster, but it’s certainly in the back of the minds of Leafs Nation. The edge of their seats will surely be worn out come Sunday morning.

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