Second period breakdown has the Maple Leafs in a hole following 5-1 loss to Bruins

Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
6 days ago
The wait is over. The time is now. The 2024 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are here, and the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins kicked things off with game one of their first-round series last night for the third meeting in the past seven years.

First period:

After 82 games over seven months, the Toronto Maple Leafs embarked on their eighth consecutive playoff journey, setting up the third meeting between these two teams in the Matthews era. We all know how the first two went. I don’t have to go into much detail there. But this year. This team. It felt like it could be different, but at the same time, it could be the same with the amount of pain this franchise has been through over the past two decades.
Despite not having played the Bruins in a playoff series in five years, entering TD Garden for game one of a playoff series last night felt all too familiar. And despite jumping out of the gates flying and looking like the better team, a simple pinch and missed assignment cost the Maple Leafs the puck in the back of their net.
Through the first two minutes of the period, the Maple Leafs were the more aggressive team, getting to pucks first and chasing hits, probably trying to prove to the Bruins they weren’t going to be pushed around with physicality. But on one particular play, Joel Edmundson went to pinch to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and Ryan Reaves, who went to deliver a hit along the wall, got a piece of Edmundson, not allowing him to get back into position, allowing Boston to counter up the ice with a 2-on-1.
Off the odd-man rush, Jesper Boqvist sent a pass over to John Beecher, who sniped his first career playoff goal past Ilya Samsonov, giving the home team the 1-0 lead 2:26 into the game and Maple Leafs fans doubt very early on. With an early goal in their back pocket after weathering an early 4-0 shot advantage for Toronto, Boston proceeded to outshoot the road team 4-2 for the next 10 minutes while getting the game’s first two power plays.
Luckily, the penalty kill for the Maple Leafs was up to the task, keeping Boston off the board after going down 1-0. Toronto couldn’t afford to go down multiple goals in the first period in game one. They needed to answer Boston’s goal and move forward.
Fortunately, toward the end of the first 20 minutes, with both teams playing four-on-four after Max Domi and Charlie McAvoy were sent to the penalty box for roughing, Hampus Lindholm was whistled for cross-checking Mitch Marner as the horn sounded to end the period after a scoring chance, sending the Maple Leafs to their first man advantage of the night.
Toronto entered the first intermission down 1-0 and outshot 12-11.

Second period:

Although they were down 1-0, Toronto began the middle period with a 4-on-3 power play and had a legit chance to even the game up. Similarly to the first period, the Maple Leafs looked like the better team. They got out to a quick shot advantage, thanks to the power play, and easily could’ve had a couple of goals. But one play, like the Bruins’ first goal, hurt Toronto, resulting in a goal for Boston.
While in the defensive zone, Matthew Knies went to clear the puck but couldn’t get all of it, whiffing on it and allowing Boston to keep possession in the zone. Although they didn’t score immediately following the turnover, it was the extended zone time that helped set up the goal when the puck worked its way to the point to Brandon Carlo, who walked into a one-timer, beating Samsonov clean for the 2-0 lead 5:47 into the middle frame.
Just like that, Samsonov had allowed Boston’s first shot of the first period and second to beat him, and while his team was holding a 20-13 shot advantage at this point, the scoreboard told a different story. It felt like he was entering the territory of don’t allow the next goal after those two goals from the Bruins.
Toronto continued to apply the pressure, generating some good looks on Swayman, but had no answers for the man who posted a save percentage of .959 and a goals-against average of 1.30 in three regular-season games against them. With the score now 2-0 for the Bruins, the next goal in the game was almost a must for the Maple Leafs. Unfortunately, here is where the game ended for Toronto after Auston Matthews and Max Domi took minor penalties two minutes apart, allowing Boston to score on both 5-on-4 man advantages thanks to Jake DeBrusk, who scored his seventh and eighth career playoff goals in 15 games against Toronto, capping off his first career three-point playoff game. He always seems to play his best against Toronto. Who doesn’t?
Suddenly, the Maple Leafs were met with a four-goal deficit with a little more than two minutes to go in the period. It’s not ideal to be trailing by four goals at any time in a playoff game, but with 1:54 to go, Charlie Coyle was sent to the penalty box for tripping, sending Toronto to their second power play of the game. They couldn’t do much on the opportunity, and losing the special teams battle in the middle frame hurt them.
Toronto entered the second intermission down 4-0 despite outshooting Boston 24-21.

Third period:

Trailing 4-0 entering the final period, it wasn’t looking too good for the Maple Leafs. It’s not that they were playing terribly, but costly mistakes ending up in the back of their net to go along with the brilliant performance from Jeremy Swayman, who seems to own Toronto at this point, was a bad mix for the road team.
But less than two minutes into the third period, Toronto’s fourth line followed up a solid opening shift from the second line and got their team on the board, ending Swayman’s shutout bid after David Kampf potted home his first goal of the playoffs to cut the Bruins’ lead to three.
Even with an early goal from the fourth line, overcoming a three-goal deficit against Boston in TD Garden almost seems impossible, but it’s nothing we’ve never seen before. Countless times this regular season, the Maple Leafs overcame multi-goal deficits. Even last year in the first round, Toronto erased two deficits against Tampa Bay and ultimately came out on top with the win. But that was last season’s playoffs and during the regular season. This is against a different team in a different situation.
The goal from Kampf gave his team some life and energy. They got out to a sizeable shot advantage, controlling the puck possession, but only scored one goal. Roughly five minutes after getting on the board, Jake McCabe was whistled for a questionable penalty, sending Boston to their fifth power play of the game, and that felt like it killed any possible momentum Toronto was trying to build.
They continued to generate chances on Swayman, but it was more so of the same thing the netminder was doing to them all season long and last night. With a little less than five minutes left, the Maple Leafs still trailing 4-1, Brandon Carlo took a delay of game penalty, giving Toronto likely one last chance to cut into their lead. Unfortunately, the power play looked lifeless even after Keefe pulled Samsonov for the extra attacker to make it 6-on-4. And with two minutes to go, Trent Fredric buried the empty netter, wrapping this game up by a score of 5-1, sending Toronto fans in attendance to the exits.

Who stood out:

If you like strictly looking at just the box score, then yes, a 5-1 score would insinuate Toronto got stomped by Boston. However, if you watched the game and dove into the numbers, Toronto deserved more than one goal, and they easily could’ve prevented fewer than five. But hockey is unfair, and sometimes games will go this way.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, Toronto generated an xGF of 4.74 in all situations compared to Boston’s 3.64. You filter that for just five-on-five play, and Toronto edged out Boston 3.19 to 1.98, yet Boston outscored Toronto 2-0 on special teams and 2-1 at five-on-five. I don’t want to say the only reason Toronto lost was they ran into a hot goalie who seems to have their number, while Toronto didn’t get a save, but that is part of the reason.
However, if you rewatch some of Boston’s goals, they were off costly errors from Toronto, and we’ve seen that happen countless times this season and in years past. Either bad pinches, missed defensive assignments, or laziness in front of the net, allowing the opposition to score. You mix that with a bad effort on the special teams, and Toronto deserves to lose game one.
For this team heading into game two, there are areas in their game with the puck and away from it that they need to clean up. Their best players need to be their best players, and I thought at moments they had chances, but for the most part, Toronto’s big guys didnt stand out for the entirety of the game. Matthews, of course, hit the post, inches away from making it a 1-1 game, and instead, it became 2-0 Boston, and the rest is history.
On the blue line, they did a solid job at limiting the chances at five-on-five. But again, some breakdowns ended up in their net and that just cant happen. According to Moneypuck.com, the Rielly-Lyubushkin pairing played 10:07 at five-on-five, and won both the shot attempt battle (16-5) and shot battle (8-3) but couldnt find the back of the net once. They generated an xGF% of 73.1% and Corsi% of 76.2%.
You can catch game two of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first-round series against the Boston Bruins on Monday night from TD Garden. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.

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