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Nylander steps up and the Maple Leafs’ powerplay remains MIA: Game 6 +/-

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
I’m not sure there is a way that Game 6 could have gone any more perfectly for the Maple Leafs. The stars showed up. The goaltender showed up. The Bruins didn’t show up. Right down to the fact that the Scotiabank Arena was bumping, things went the way you’d hope they would for the Leafs. Except the powerplay. Thank goodness for the powerplay otherwise doing a +/- post after a win that inspired so much optimism would be a pleasant challenge to pick out what went wrong.

+plus

  • William Nylander continues to build his reputation as the Leafs star who shows up when they need their core the most. His two-goal night and relentless driving offensive force throughout the night were obviously necessary. His 5 shots led the Leafs as did his 0.83 ixG. His uncharacteristic 3 hits and 2 two blocked shots also point to Nylander being a player not ready to see the series come to an end. Seeing this version of Nylander on a Game 7 stage should be exciting.
  • How much needs to be said about Joseph Woll this series? He came about as close to a shutout without getting one as possible in the NHL, but still leads NHL goaltenders in playoff GAA (0.86) and save percentage (.964) even out doing the supposedly unbeatable Jeremy Swayman. How nice would it be to see the Leafs goalie someone in the playoffs for a change? What was perhaps most impressive about Woll last night was he that he took the majority of his shots from the high danger areas of the ice and still stopped 11 of 12 chances from that range.
  • The Leafs had 27 blocked shots so there was some support occurring for Woll as well. Rielly led the way with 5, but Domi, Knies, Nylander, and Bertuzzi all had multiple blocks on the night, as well as Benoit, and Lyubushkin being the other defenders with more than one block. David Pastrnak had 10 shot attempts and only three found their way to Woll.

-minus

  • We have to do this and once again it’s time to point out the Leafs powerplay does little more than limit the Bruins ability to score for a two minute window. Last night it seems that is all the Leafs needed from it and having Pastrnak lead the Bruins in penalties was also a plus. That said there were only three shots on goal by the Leafs from the powerplay and they all came on the second unit. I don’t know if it can get much worse.
  • By the numbers the Bruins were pushing the Leafs more than the other way around at 5v5. It was a Randy Carlyle type win where the Corsi and Expected Goals didn’t favour the Leafs top six or top pairings and only the sheltered bottom six had encouraging underlying numbers. The thing is the Leafs are more equipped to win this way than they were a decade ago and seeing them get a win in a way less conventional for them is encouraging no longer a red flag.
  • Domi and Bertuzzi having the team’s lowest numbers for xGA and getting heavily out-chanced does emphasize the obvious that the sooner that Auston Matthews is back in the lineup the better.

Oddest Stat of the Night

The Leafs won a playoff game at home. That drought is over.

What’s next?

  • Having Ryan Reaves out of the lineup certainly didn’t hurt the Leafs toughness or ability to push back at the Bruins physically and while I’m not sure Noah Gregor added a ton to the Leafs lineup, speed and defensive smarts definitely helped. In the event that we aren’t talking about Auston Matthews or Bobby McMann entering the lineup for Game 7, it seems like Gregor over Reaves is still the best bet.
  • Timothy Liljegren looked shaky but I’m not sure the Leafs want to mess with their blueline in an elimination game after winning with Liljegren in. I wouldn’t doubt that Liljegren’s spot in the lineup could be called into question in the second round, but he’s a lock for Game 7. It also seems like switching to 11F/7D this late in the series would be an unnecessary shock to the system.
  • The powerplay. Something has to change but I don’t know how much work the Leafs want to put into that right now either. I’ve made a suggestion before that maybe you just have two centres pick four players a piece going back and forth school yard style and build out two somewhat balanced powerplay units that might play a bit differently than what we’ve seen where the system and personnel are leading to predictable results.
The Leafs and Bruins are back at it Saturday night for the deciding Game 7.
Data sourced from NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick

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