Maple Leafs had a rough Game 1, but it’s going to be a long series

Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs were handed a 5-1 loss by the Boston Bruins in Game 1, thanks to brutal puck management and a lack of discipline, two areas that can be cleaned up. The Bruins may have drawn first blood, but it’s the first to four wins, not four goals. Buckle up, it’s far from over.
First things first, what was with the Maple Leafs puck management in the opening tilt? It seemed like nobody wanted to make a tape-to-tape pass and every player was more comfortable flicking the puck into space. More times than not, the Bruins would be first on the puck or win the puck battle, and next thing you know are transitioning into an offensive look. The Maple Leafs looked scared to make a play and it was a big reason why they lost the game.
The faceoff circle was interesting as well. Going into the series, the Maple Leafs were the much better team on draws during the regular season and the matchup should be in their favour on paper, but that wasn’t the case at all in Game 1. It was 57% for the Bruins to 43% for the Maple Leafs including, Auston Matthews and David Kampf combining to go 11/33 on the night. Not good enough. There needs to be an emphasis on starting with the puck more often and not starting shifts chasing the puck.
Puck management certainly ties into missing William Nylander and his ability to possess the puck on a nightly basis, but this wasn’t all because Nylander was absent due to injury. It had everything to do with the intensity of the game ramping up in a major way and the Bruins throwing hit after hit to try and finish plays. Boston did a great job collapsing on the puck and finishing their checks, and it pushed the Leafs onto their heels. More times than not, it looked like the Leafs would get the puck and anticipate a hit rather than find an outlet and then take the hit.

Several Maple Leafs Had Very Bad Game 1’s

Joel Edmundson should delete the game tape from Game 1 and move on. The Maple Leafs picked him up to be a rock-solid stay-at-home defender who is tough to play against in the dirty areas of the ice and someone who can be a reliable force on the back end. Brad Treliving didn’t pick up Edmundson to join the rush and be behind the net fetching for pucks. He was trying to do too much in Game 1 and needs to reel it back in Game 2, keep it simple and be effective at the areas of the ice he’s supposed to be – in front of his net and the corners. He needs to do a much better job at being aware of who he’s on the ice with and when and when not to pinch. Stepping up in the o-zone with the fourth line was not the play here, and once Ryan Reaves also made a bad read on the play it was all said and done:
Simon Benoit also seemed flustered during Game 1 and the moment may have become a touch bigger than he expected. It was great to see the Maple Leafs try to be physical and ramp up their intensity for the playoffs, but there were too many times where Benoit was taking himself out of the play just to make a hit. He fumbled the puck a few times and just didn’t seem like his comfortable self on the ice. We’ll see if Sheldon Keefe decides to go with T.J. Brodie instead for Game 2.
Max Domi was jacked up for this game and it showed from before the puck even dropped. While it was great to see him getting into the face of Brad Marchand before the game even started, and I understand the thought process behind it, I did not like the fact he put a target on his back for the entire game. Domi got away with a slash before the opening draw, however later in the game it came back to bite him as he was called for slashing Marchand. The Bruins capitalized and the game became out of reach. Domi needs to uncross his wires for Game 2 and go back to being a facilitator first, play with the same tenacity, and tone it down to a more allowable level. The refs are watching him closely.
While Ilya Samsonov’s .826 save percentage is not ideal in the least, it’s hard to pin this loss on the Russian netminder. Boston scored on a 2-on-1 and the power-play twice. Brandon Carlo’s blast to make it 2-0 was the result of a soft play by Benoit and Pontus Holmberg not closing his gap enough to limit Carlo’s chance to step into one. As you’ll see from this angle, Sammy had no chance:
I don’t think Keefe turns to Joseph Woll in Game 2. After winning five in a row from March 23-April 8 it’s been a tough go for Samsonov of late, but if anyone’s shown capabilities of bouncing back this season it’s him.

Several Reasons Maple Leafs Can Punch Back

The Maple Leafs have had a very tough time winning Game 1s over the past seven seasons, now sitting with a record of 2-7 since 2017. Meanwhile, they showed last season, after a 7-3 thumping from the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the ability to bounce back in Game 2. The Leafs posted a 7-spot of their own in Game 2 and went on to win the series in six games.
Auston Matthews had his chances during Game 1 in Boston. Domi needs to stay out of the box in Game 2 and allow for the top unit to create some momentum and wear down their opponents. It was tough for the line to get in a groove.
One crazy play while the game was 1-0, was when Matthews beat his defender, and beat Jeremy Swayman to the puck, just to hit the post on the open net. This goes in, it’s a different game:
Matthews spoke to the media postgame and pointed out the fact it’s a game of inches and he thought the game got away from the Leafs because of bad penalties and little mistakes. Correct on all accounts. What many people may not realize is the fact Toronto out-chanced the Bruins in Game 1, 38 to 21, including 20 to 8 in high-danger areas. This is. one of the many reasons you didn’t hear any of the Maple Leafs reaching for the panic button after the game. What needs to be cleaned up can be.
Toronto is still very much alive in this series. Everything went wrong in the second period of Game 1 and with more focus on taking care of the puck, being disciplined and sticking to their game plan in Game 2, this Maple Leafs team can turn things around and even up the series. They’ve shown in the past an ability to bounce back and it’s going to take a total team effort to find the same result on Monday.

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