A glass half full approach for the Maple Leafs heading into Game 2 against Boston

Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
5 days ago
If you watched Game 1 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, you probably haven’t been left feeling all that optimistic. While nobody expected it to be a walk in the park for the Leafs, most people were probably hoping that, at bare minimum, they would have gone down with a fight and not by a deficit of four goals. Be that as it may, that’s where we’re at right now. Game 2 is staring them down, and they only have three lives left to work with.
Whether or not fans want to hear it, there are a couple of positives to look at heading into Game 2, unless you’ve already made up your mind that the Leafs are done, in which case, there’s probably not much of a point in you reading this. For those who are looking for a boost of positivity, however, here are a couple of things you can cling to if you want a nod of confidence that they’re still in this series.

They got blown out in Game 1 last year

If you read the comment section under our articles here at The Leafs Nation, or on social media posts about last year’s Game 1 affair between the Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, you would never guessed that Toronto would eventually prevail in the series, winning their first series in 19 years. Lots of elements from last year’s Game 1 are similar to what happened this year. The four-goal deficit is one of them – only they lost 7-3 instead of 5-1. Samsonov’s .826 save percentage (SV%) from Saturday night was slightly better than his .793 SV% from last year, although, the bar is on the floor at that point. Tampa had their way with the Leafs on the power play, going 4-for-8 and popping off for three power-play goals in just over five minutes to close out the second period. Those goals brought the score from 3-2 Tampa to 6-2, effectively icing the game. It wasn’t to the same extent against Boston, but a pair of power play goals near the end of the second period turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-0 deficit for Toronto, which is a massive gap to overcome in the playoffs.
Last year, the Leafs went on to return the favour with a 7-2 blowout win of their own in Game 2, and completed three uncharacteristic overtime wins on the road to eventually win the series. That’s not to say they’ll do the same thing this season, and I certainly wouldn’t bank on a blowout over Boston on Monday night, but it serves as a friendly reminder that the Game 1 winner isn’t always going to be the series winner. If anything, it just means that Game 2 in Boston means that much more than it would have if they took the win in Game 1. I’d even go as far as to compare it to a Game 7 kind of vibe. Would you trust the Leafs to win four of five against the Bruins if they lost tonight?
Okay, this may have taken a bit of a glass half empty turn, but the fact remains – a Game 1 loss doesn’t mean a series loss.

They matched up well from a physical standpoint

The fact that I’m already pivoting to “Well, at least they threw a bunch of hits!” for my second nod of positivity should tell you that there weren’t a lot of positives to take away from Game 1. But, we’ll have a piece up looking at the glass half empty approach in a bit, so don’t get it twisted – we’re looking at things from both sides here.
The acquisitions the Leafs made over the offseason were made with the prospect of a playoff matchup like this one in mind. Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and Ryan Reaves were all brought in to add some “snot” to the Leafs’ dressing room, and the acquisitions of Ilya Lyubushkin and Joel Edmundson at the trade deadline further confirmed this notion. While there wasn’t much on the positive side of things to take away from the scoresheet, they did hold their own physically against a team they’ve failed to do so against in the past. That’s something, right?
Perhaps they were too physical for their own good, however. Domi wasted no time mixing things up with the Bruins, getting into it with Brad Marchand before the puck even dropped. While I’m sure it made Leafs’ faithful happy to see him try to set the tone from the start, it likely put a Michael Bunting-style target on his back for the rest of the game. He got dinged for a slash on Marchand later in the game, which promptly sent him to the box and set up a Bruins power play goal. Right idea, wrong execution.
Either way, if there’s some sort of bright side to be found here, the Leafs outhit the Bruins by one at a final tally of 52-5, and unlike previous series’ against Boston, Toronto didn’t look scared. They definitely focused a little too much on the physicality aspect, to the point where it looked like they were abandoning their defensive structure to make the hit, but it’s better than struggling defensively and electing not to throw the body. If they can reverse the order of operations for the rest of the series and save the physicality for after they’ve got the lead, they’ll be better off going forward.

They lost because of stupid mistakes, not poor effort

This one is a matter of personal opinion, depending on how you viewed the game, but I’d be left feeling much worse about the game had they been outchanced, outshot, and outplayed from start to finish. Instead, they came out and set the tone early only for their momentum to be squashed two minutes into a game. Whether you want to blame Reaves, who misread the play and allowed the 2-on-1, or Ilya Samsonov, who allowed Boston’s first shot of the game to cross the red line, it put a damper on their momentum early and immediately let Boston back into the game.
Following the early gaffe, they took several stupid penalties that did nothing but set them back further. Matthews and Bertuzzi were both dinged with an errant high stick, with the former’s leading to Boston’s third goal of the game, and Domi’s aforementioned slash extended the gap only two minutes later. In my opinion, the loss came down to two things – those stupid penalties, and Jeremy Swayman playing far and away better than Ilya Samsonov. That’s not to say that it was Samsonov’s fault, but no matter which way you slice it, the team with the goalie stopping 35 of 36 shots is more likely to win than the one stopping 19 of 23.
In the end, the Leafs outshot the Bruins 36-24 and lost control of the game in spurts rather than having it be a lost cause all the way through. They will desperately need to limit these mistakes if they want to stand a chance in this series because as we all know right now, you can’t cheat the Bruins.

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