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Knee Jerk Reaction: Game 7 awaits as Joseph Woll’s arrival in the series changed the Maple Leafs’ fortunes

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
From start to finish the Leafs were the better team tonight and it showed up the scoresheet and it certainly showed in the Leafs net as Woll’s near shutout performance was the game-breaking play the Leafs needed.
It seems unfair to hang the Leafs’ lack of success early in the series on Ilya Samsonov. He was fine. In playoff hockey fine doesn’t cut it and the Leafs aren’t good enough that fine goaltending puts them in contention.
Since Woll’s arrival, he’s meant business. It’s no longer about treading water; he’s been stealing games and covering off the multitude of sins that the Leafs’ defence regularly commits in front of their netminders. The Leafs have the best goaltender in a series that features Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark.
Now the Leafs and Bruins are in familiar territory. It’s Game 7 time and historically this favours the Bruins, although they are now up to six consecutive games where they’ve had the opportunity to eliminate their opponent and have come up short. Dropping a “don’t give me hope” meme here would be fitting but this equally feels like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. Delaying the pain for Game 7 feels natural for the Leafs but the Bruins haven’t faced the Leafs will Woll in Game 7. A calm netminder can be a difference-maker for a team just looking for an excuse to play offensive hockey rather than worrying about what happens in their end.
On the offensive side of things, there is still a struggle. Jeremy Swayman is seeing to that, but as long as Toronto continues to aggressively out-chance the Bruins they are in a good place. Having a powerplay that isn’t choreographed disappointment would be nice, but baby steps. They are getting things done at 5v5 and at the bare minimum, the Leafs are maximizing the two minutes when the Bruins aren’t pushing for scoring opportunities, even if Toronto picking up a goal at some point doesn’t seem like much of an ask.
With all the praise that can be heaped on Woll, some accolades need to be directed at William Nylander. This was his game offensively and while Matthew Knies certainly was there to help, William Nylander said came out and led the offence for the Leafs. Star players do that. Leaders do that. William Nylander did that.
Saturday night’s Game 7 will be a collective adventure in Toronto’s mental health. There are a lot of ghosts showing up. It’s hard not to think of how started and Reimer’s collapse in the third period over decade ago. This time can be different. The Leafs have invested in this being a team built different for the playoffs. Getting through a Game 7 against Boston really might be that dragon slaying moment this team needs to kick start their moment.

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