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Game 3 takeaways: Brad Marchand delivers urgent response

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Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
1 month ago
Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins were expected to deliver an urgent response after getting called out by their head coach Jim Montgomery. Marchand complimented this year’s Maple Leafs group, believing the 2024 iteration had separated itself from teams of the past in large part due to their physicality.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Marchand submitted one of the best performances of his career, leading the Bruins to a 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs in Game 3, tipping the balance back in his team’s favour.
Here are six takeaways from the Bruins’ 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs in Game 3.
All stats from NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick unless noted otherwise. 
Brad Marchand responds with one of the best games of his career 
Marchand took the Bruins’ Game 2 loss personally and responded with a phenomenal effort Wednesday. Boston controlled 95.3 percent of the expected goals when he was on the ice at 5-on-5 and he registered two goals — including the game-winner on a picture-perfect shot — one primary assist, six shots, while completely owning every facet of the game.
Throughout the week, Auston Matthews has been a point of emphasis — rightfully so, after Toronto’s No. 34 played the best game of his career in Game 2. Marchand and his linemates limited his efficacy. Playing 5:46 against Matthews at 5-on-5, the Bruins outshot the Maple Leafs 8-1 when Marchand was on the ice. It’s a massive victory for Marchand and for Montgomery, who altered his top-nine formation for Game 3, placing Charlie Coyle and Morgan Geekie on a line with Boston’s captain.
“We played better tonight definitely, but pockets we need to improve on. Good game,” Marchand told Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas post-game.
Marchand was a menace outside of the scoresheet, which is to be expected at this juncture of his career. After the Maple Leafs held onto a tenuous 1-0 lead, Marchand got tangled up with Tyler Bertuzzi and took him down behind the play. Trent Frederic proceeded to ring a speculative shot right through Ilya Samsonov’s glove for the game-tying goal, which changed the momentum of the game entirely. Marchand not only dominated the Maple Leafs on the scoresheet, he won the psychological battle unanimously.
“He wants to get under our skin and influence the refs, so I think we’ve just got to be composed and not kind of get into that bullshit. Just play hard and make him (less) effective,” Maple Leafs forward Matthew Knies said post-game to The Athletic’s Chris Johnston.
It’s not just the players who are struggling with Marchand’s overall impact.
“He gets calls. It’s unbelievable actually, how it goes,” Keefe said of Marchand post-game. We’ve got to fight through that stuff. I don’t think there’s another player in this series that gets away with taking out Bertuzzi’s legs the way that he does. There’s not one other player in this series that gets away with it but he does. It’s an art and he’s elite at it.”
William Nylander’s prolonged absence is casting a shadow over the Maple Leafs
Nylander’s status remained in question until warmups, where he was officially ruled out of the game. It was believed by some that Nylander could’ve potentially returned to the lineup for Game 3 but after he stayed late during Wednesday’s morning skate, getting work in with scratch Noah Gregor, the optimism dwindled entirely. Nick Alberga reported that Nylander is believed to be suffering from a head injury, although no formal designation has been given by the Maple Leafs.
In any event, Nylander’s absence is having a cumulative effect on the Maple Leafs throughout the series, reverberating throughout the lineup. Toronto’s power play is anemic without Nylander as he’s easily the best player at entering the zone, while operating as the team’s secondary shooting threat after Matthews. During 5-on-5 play, Nylander would instantly augment Toronto’s top-six and perhaps spell a struggling Mitch Marner, with the Matthews line expected to carry the offense through the opening three games.
When will the Maple Leafs get Nylander back? Time will only tell, but time is running out, and it will be too late to tell the tale of William Nylander’s mysterious, postseason absence.
Maple Leafs’ special teams are sinking the series 
A picture paints a thousand words and credit to The Leafs Nation’s social team for summarizing the main problem from Game 3 — and perhaps the most glaring problem from the series overall. Toronto’s special teams — particularly its power play — is sinking the series.
Toronto failed to generate any meaningful offense with the man advantage, going 0-for-5 in Game 3. It’s not for a lack of effort, per se. Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman was incredible and elevated his game when the Maple Leafs had the man advantage, robbing Tyler Bertuzzi several times during a dazzling sequence. Swayman made a massive save on Matthews during the first period and during the third period, when the Maple Leafs pulled their goalie, he robbed Calle Jarnkrok netfront to seal the game.
Toronto also failed to deviate from its rote actions, while stacking the first power play unit with the team’s best forwards and Morgan Rielly. They didn’t run anything inventive and eventually Rielly became the fulcrum, when the Bruins did everything they could to deny Matthews clean shooting lanes.
There were enough chances to bury the Bruins on home ice, but Nylander’s absence really hurts the flow of the unit and combined with Swayman’s heroics and Marchand’s fluency on the Bruins’ power play, special teams are proving to be a massive difference.
Jeremy Swayman must be the Bruins’ starter for Game 4 
Wednesday night marked the 29th consecutive game where the Bruins rotated their goaltender and Game 3 was Swayman’s designed start. After shutting the door on a frantic Maple Leafs team, we don’t expect that Jim Montgomery is going to be coy about his Game 4 starter. Swayman made 28 saves and was named the game’s first star.
“He’s a stud. He played incredible tonight, especially at the end. They made a couple of really big pushes and he was there to answer the bell. Love his confidence right now. He has that swag and he’s showing it,” Marchand said of Swayman post-game.
To his credit, Swayman doesn’t think he’s wrestled the starting job away from Linus Ullmark. The eye test and stat sheet both suggest otherwise.
“Never. I’m never going to expect anything. I’m going to earn it. So, it’s all I care about,” Swayman said via Sportsnet’s Luke Fox when asked if he’s expected to start Game 4.
Swayman saved a goal above expected in Game 3 and Bertuzzi will have nightmares about his former teammate in the lead up to Saturday’s Game 4. Boston can run its rotation back if it likes, but Swayman has been the superior goaltender in this series.
One primary assist doesn’t excuse Mitch Marner’s disappearing act
Mitch Marner struggled through the opening two games and he’s failed to meaningfully drive a line with John Tavares and Matthew Knies. Toronto’s star playmaker has rarely looked like the player that led the team in regular season and playoff scoring in 2023. Whether you want to call it the Discourse or the function of two sub-par performances while playing for the NHL’s most scrutinized team, the pressure was on Marner to deliver in Game 3. He did deliver one brief moment, but it didn’t make up for another game filled with blunders.
Joel Edmundson (who was terrific during the opening 30 minutes, then saw his game fall off a cliff) dropped the puck back to Marner, who out-waited the Bruins’ defense before finding a crashing Knies for the game’s opening goal.
It was an outstanding pass and if were it not for the Bruins’ immediate response, perhaps it would be a different tune. During Jake DeBrusk’s goal, which gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead, Marner just watches Marchand separate from the wall after David Pastrnak wins the puck battle against Joel Edmundson. He was a split-second late with many of his reads, struggled to maintain offensive zone time and if he is expected to function as the Maple Leafs’ second-best player, Toronto needs more than one superlative play in three games.
Bruins did a much better job of individual defense on Auston Matthews
Matthews was the focal point and for good reason. Jim Montgomery called Matthews ‘The Most Dangerous Man on the Ice’ and who could blame him? It wasn’t all on the Bruins’ defense as Matthews rung a puck off the post on a 2-on-1 early in the second period, while getting blanked by Swayman on the power play. He’s too good to be contained, but the Bruins improved their individual defense on No. 34 and it paid.off.
Hampus Lindholm was Matthews’ primary defender for the third consecutive game and held him to a 30 percent share of the expected goals at 5-on-5. Brandon Carlo kept Matthews to a 12 percent share in nearly eight minutes. Boston’s forwards clouded Matthews and while it allowed Bertuzzi and Domi several dangerous looks, they did everything they could to obstruct Matthews. Matthews is the danger, they pushed him away from the net-front and rarely allowed him to generate speed in the neutral zone. You can’t stop Matthews, you can only hope to minimize his impact and the Bruins did precisely that.

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