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Marner gets a point and Maple Leafs not so special teams: Game 3 +/-

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Another night without William Nylander. Is that going to be the excuse this year for the Leafs? Will it be that Mitch Marner was rushed back from a high ankle sprain? Or is it just a one-game deficit and it’s still premature to write off the Leafs given that they hung with the Bruins for most of the game? Here’s a look at the Game 3 +’s and -‘s that hint at whether optimism is still allowed.

+plus

  • Marner picking up a point is a plus. The season could not have ended any worse for Mitch and the first two games of the playoffs were a continuation of Marner not showing up in the playoffs. I’m not sure you can say that his 23 minutes of hockey that had countering 40.63 CF%, and 65.08 xGF% were good enough to say his slump is behind him but hoping that a highlight reel assist got the monkey off his back is allowed.
  • The Leafs got their best version of Jake McCabe so far in the playoffs and if he can keep that going the Leafs’ defence will look a little better when you factor in that playoff Morgan Rielly is also in full effect. McCabe had 61.11 CF%, 100 GF%, and 81.11 xGF% at 5v5.
  • Bertuzzi and Jarnkrok deserve a lot of love and if there is one thing that the Leafs need during the playoffs it is greasy goals. Bertuzzi does that naturally and got on the scoresheet with one, but Jarnkrok deserves some credit for his aggressive attack on the net as well. Bertuzzi had a .87 ixG to lead the Leafs and Jarnkrok was second with .57.
  • Samsonov wasn’t perfect tonight but a .909 save percentage and .857 HDSV% is what is needed to give the Leafs offence a chance to win games.

-minus

  • What more can be said beyond 0 for 5 on the powerplay and the Bruins going 2 for 3 on their powerplays? I guess getting only six shots on those five powerplays is worth acknowledging as an exclamation point on the performance. The two teams were tied 2-2 at 5v5, so while it was even strength that was Toronto’s undoing against Boston during the regular season, it is definitely special teams that are crushing them now.
  • Some will blame Edmundson (3 all-strengths goals against, 2 5v5) and some will blame Liljegren (2 5v5 goals against) but no matter who you are blaming the pairing is not working against the Bruins and with a reasonable Plan B sitting in the press box (T.J. Brodie) it seems insane that three games of this disastrous pairing have gone on. Swapping Edmundson out to bring in Brodie for a fresh look on the penalty kill would make the most sense but given that the powerplay has struggled I’m sure sitting Liljegren and letting someone like McCabe have a go with the powerplay wouldn’t be a terrible option either. Once they get sorted out the Leafs can move on to the issues with Lyubushkin.
  • After the Leafs dictated the pace on the road things have taken a turn for the Bruins now that the series has moved to Toronto.
  • The Bruins stars got their chances. Marchand had a game-high 1.54 ixG, Coyle had .96, and Pastrnak had .79. Even James van Riemsdyk had a .6 ixG. Getting Marchand under control is going to be a key call to action for the Leafs heading into Game 4, but if Pastrnak continues to get a good number of looks the Leafs could find themselves in a different kind of trouble too.

Odd stat of the night

Mitch Marner played over 23 minutes and didn’t register a shot.

What’s next?

I’m not sure how many times that plan can be for William Nylander to come in and upgrade the lineup. Given that he won’t be at 100% and was struggling pre-injury and the Leafs are potentially experiencing high expectations on a less than 100% Mitch Marner, it is worth considering what the best way would be for the Leafs to hedge their bets on the lineup if Nylander doesn’t live up to his 98 point reputation. Ryan Reaves has been good by Ryan Reaves standards but hits don’t throw the Bruins off their game and keeping Robertson in the lineup as a rested goal-scoring option might be more beneficial.
Beating the drum for playing Brodie has also been exhausting at this point but given the number of issues with the Leafs blueline, maybe there is a bump that can be had by putting Mark Giordano in the lineup as well.
Sorry Joseph Woll, the net still belongs to Ilya Samsonov. I wouldn’t rule out the Leafs going to him if the series falls to 3-1 though.
And finally, Sheldon Keefe. I’m not going to knock what he’s doing at 5v5, even though I think the Leafs need to be setting the pace more at home and not stressing their matchups, but I will say he needs to take an active interest in special teams and intervene on what his assistants are doing.
The Leafs have an extra day to figure things out and it will be interesting to see what they do with that time. Game 4 is Saturday night in Toronto.
Data from NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick

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