logo

An interesting off-season in Toronto awaits as Bruins eliminate Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 7

alt
Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
1 month ago
After falling behind in the series 3-1, the Maple Leafs rallied back and won Games 5 and 6, which forced a deciding Game 7 in TD Garden last night for the fourth time in 11 years and the third time in the Matthews, Marner, Nylander era.

First period:

If heading into last night’s game felt familiar, it’s because it was. Although this year’s Toronto Maple Leafs are totally different from the 2013 team, the 2013 Maple Leafs were in the same boat, down 3-1, winning Games 5 and 6 to force game 7.
In 2018, the first meeting against the Bruins in the Matthews, Marner, Nylander era, the Maple Leafs found themselves down 3-1 in the series and ended up winning Games 5 and 6 to force a Game 7. Like in 2013, Toronto had a lead in the third period only to allow four straight goals and lose.
In 2019, it was a tad different, but the final result was the same. Toronto even had three leads in the series (1-0, 2-1, and 3-2) but choked away Game 6 on home ice and put together their worst effort in Game 7, losing 5-1.
Last night, it felt all too familiar. Despite overcoming their first-round demons a year ago, defeating the Lightning in Game 6, Toronto had still never won a Game 7, and the organization was 0-5 since their last Game 7 win in 2004. For Boston, they were one loss away from blowing a 3-1 series lead in consecutive playoffs. Both teams entered last night with narratives hanging over them. But only one team could end it.
After having two of their worst starts to the game in Games 5 and 6, generating a combined three shots in each first period, the Bruins had a much better start in this one, and it was a little challenging for Toronto to get things going through the first 10 minutes of the opening period. Simon Benoit had two of Toronto’s four shots at one point. That should tell you how much they generated in the first half.
But after Ilya Samsonov – who got the starting nod in Game 7 because of an injury problem regarding Joseph Woll from his last-second dive attempt to stop the Bruins from scoring – and the Maple Leafs weathered the early storm from the home side, Toronto settled back into the period and began to look like themselves again.
Before that, they looked tense. They were icing the puck a ton, Samsonov dropped his goal stick twice, and some passes were either jumping over sticks or getting picked off. It was a little sloppy, but they managed to keep Boston off the board.
Once the road team found their rhythm, they spent more time in the offensive zone but continued to have trouble finding ways to get the puck past Jeremy Swayman, who continued to play out of his mind. Despite the slow start, Toronto got it together and finished the first period with seven scoring chances and two high-danger chances, according to Naturalstattrick.com.
Toronto entered the first intermission tied 0-0 and outshot 11-9.

Second period:

After watching how close Games 5 and 6 were and the fact the first period of Game 7 remained tied after 20 minutes, this game had the makings of another tight contest, with the potential of a very low-scoring game. Unfortunately, thinking that almost backfired right away. A little over two minutes into the middle frame, Timothy Liljegren was whistled for tripping seconds after Toronto iced the puck for what felt like the tenth time at this point in the game.
It was no secret that the Maple Leafs’ special teams had been a disaster entering Game 7, especially the power play. But their penalty kill went 2-for-2 in Games 5 and 6 and 4-for-5 since Game 4, so there was the belief that they started to figure things out, and that continued on this kill with Liljegren in the box.
Toronto did a fantastic job at liming Boston’s chances, and less than 30 seconds after Liljegren jumped out of the box, Max Domi drew a cross-checking penalty on Charlie Coyle in the offensive zone, sending his team to the man advantage for the 21st time this series. I’ll admit they looked very dangerous on this power play, but it took them over a minute to start generating their looks. Unfortunately, it was the same result as the other opportunities. They couldn’t put the puck in the back of the net, and the game remained tied at zero, approaching the midway point of the frame.
The parade to the box continued a little over 10 minutes in, as Matthew Knies was sent for a questionable hooking penalty, sending Toronto right back to the penalty kill. And, similarly to their first kill, they did a solid job at not giving the Bruins much to work with. Calle Jarnkrok intercepted a pass with three other Maple Leafs below the goal line and got the clear, preventing any possible scoring chance for Boston.
Toward the end of the penalty kill, Connor Dewar almost had the game’s opening goal when he sprung himself alone for a breakaway but couldn’t beat Swayman short-handed. It was a fantastic effort from Pastrnak to get back, but if Knies was called for that soft hook just the shift prior, Pastrnak should’ve been called for one also because he got his stick in on Dewar’s hands on this scoring chance.
Although Dewar came so close to getting his team on the board, Toronto killed off the remaining time on the Knies penalty and came close to scoring again once he jumped out of the penalty box after David Kampf fired a pass up ice to him at the offensive blue line. Knies got in alone and got taken down from behind by Kevin Shattenkirk. But taking a guy’s legs out with your stick is apparently legal, especially on breakaways. Knies crashed hard into Swayman, and nothing came of it, resuming the game at five-on-five.
Similarly to Game 6, when John Tavares and Max Domi had breakaway opportunities before William Nylander scored on his to make it 2-0 Toronto, Dewar and Knies not being able to capitalize on those chances felt like a massive missed opportunity for the road team with time in the second period winding down with the game still knotted at zeroes.
Toronto entered the second intermission tied 0-0 and outshooting Boston 21-18.

Third period:

The last nine periods before the third yesterday had been tight. Toronto and Boston remained tied after the first, second and third periods in Game 5. They remained tied after the first period in Game 6 and last night, they remained tied after the first and second periods, setting up a stressful final 20 minutes for both fan bases.
It truthfully started to feel like we were officially entering the next goal wins territory with how defensive both teams were playing each other. Every pass, shot, and face-off got even more significant. Being tied at zero in the third period of Game 7 is what gives fans nightmares because although they know they are one shot from leading this game, they are also one shot from trailing.
Icings became an issue for Toronto again in the third period. Whether it was a long flip from their end of the ice into the neutral zone that carried down the ice or a simple dump-in from the wrong side of the red line, the Maple Leafs had some defensive zone face-offs to win to limit their time spent in their zone.
Then, the first goal of the game happened. Finally, back in the offensive zone with a loaded-up line of Bertuzzi, Matthews, and Nylander, Toronto opened the scoring 9:01 into the third frame thanks to Nylander, who scored his third goal of the series, all three coming in Games 6 and 7.
It was a terrific job from Bertuzzi, who forced Brandon Carlo into turning the puck over, and Auston Matthews with the patience to find Nylander, who beat Swayman.
Toronto was now up 1-0 in the third period with less than 11 minutes to go. The unfortunate part about that was the follow-up shift in the defensive zone. With plenty of opportunities to clear the puck out of the zone, Toronto was stuck defending in their end, and it hurt them. After a near goal seconds prior from the Bruins that sent the puck over the net, kind of in slow motion, the puck made its way to Hampus Lindholm near the face-off dot, and he fired an innocent-looking shot toward the net, and it found a way past Samsonov, tying the game up at one just 1:21 later.
Going from Nylander’s goal and hearing the Maple Leafs fans in attendance cheering to getting hemmed in the defensive zone the following shift and allowing a goal was tough. Toronto and Boston were right back to square one. They spent nearly 50 minutes of the game tied 0-0, and in a minute and a half, they each scored, making it a 1-1 game with less than 10 minutes to play.
Time started to wind down in regulation, and the thought of overtime was creeping in. These teams played their first overtime in Game 5, with Toronto coming out on top 2-1, forcing a Game 6, and with how tight-checking this game was, it felt like overtime in Game 7 was guaranteed even with time still left on the clock. But with seconds left, we almost had a winner after Nylander fired the puck toward the net, and it took a bounce off a Bruin and onto Swayman, but the Bruins’ netminder stopped it.
Toronto entered the third intermission tied 1-1 and outshooting Boston 29-28.

Overtime period:

Well, at least they didn’t have to make everyone wait an entire overtime period, or multiple, for that matter. It took Boston 1:54 to score the game-winner after David Pastrnak, who was publicly called out by his head coach following their loss in Game 6, got in behind every Toronto player and scored on Ilya Samsonov.
Pastrnak is a hell of a player, and Toronto did a fantastic job at containing him all series long. But the effort from the Maple Leafs on the winning goal was not good at all. Mitch Marner didn’t attempt to cut him off, allowing him to blow right past him in the neutral zone. Once Hampus Lindholm fired the puck from the red line into the end boards, Pastrnak blew right past Morgan Rielly, who was very late to react to what was going on, and he was all alone against Samsonov.
With Marner and Rielly looking bad on that play, Samsonov didn’t attempt to play the puck after it bounced off the boards and was in front of him. Pastrnak went forehand and backhand and got it over him, clinching the series and defeating the Maple Leafs in yet another game 7.

Who stood out:

Truthfully, it’s tough to look at the positives in a game where the Maple Leafs lost in overtime, ultimately ending their season to one of their division rivals for a fourth consecutive season. On top of that, Toronto has dropped its last five Game 7’s since 2018, scoring a combined eight goals, with four coming in 2018 when they lost 7-4. That means the Maple Leafs have scored a whopping one goal in each of their last four Game 7’s. That is just inexcusable.
The narrative for so long from outside this fan base, and even inside of it with some fans, was that this team couldn’t play playoff hockey. They couldn’t defend, they couldn’t hit, they couldn’t withstand the playoffs, etc. Well, they did a solid job defending the Bruins this year. They did a fine job with the Lightning in 2022 and the Canadiens in 2021. They limited the Blue Jackets to 2.40 goals a game in their five-game series in 2020. The real problem with this team in the playoffs over the last five years is their inability to score goals, especially on the power play.
Through seven games, Toronto scored just 12 goals on Swayman and Ullmark (1.71 per game). Meanwhile, Boston scored 18 goals on Samsonov and Woll (2.57 per game). Yes, 18 goals is more than 12, but six of those 18 goals came on the power play compared to Toronto’s one power-play goal in 21 attempts. At five-on-five, the Maple Leafs were the better team throughout the series. But their penalty kill hurt them in Games 1-4, and that dug a hole for them that they tried to dig out of but ultimately came up short in yet another Game 7.

Check out these posts...