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The Maple Leafs core fails to execute when the games matter the most

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a mess and the home crowd let them hear all about it throughout their 3-1 Game 4 loss to the hands of the Boston Bruins. Adequate effort level? Debatable. Execution level? Non-existent.
Walking into Scotiabank Arena there was a buzz in the city. The fans were hooting and hollering on the sidewalks, the concourse was full of ‘Go Leafs Go’ chants before warmup even started and the optimism was pouring through the veins of Leafs Nation. 15 minutes after puck drop, the positive vibes all came crashing down.
The start of the game was a feeling out process, with mostly everything being kept to the outside and you could feel the nervous energy throughout the rink. There weren’t any bone-crushing hits or grade-A chances, and for the most part, neither goalie was tested. It felt as if both teams were scared to make the first mistake.
A power-play chance for the Maple Leafs just under four minutes in led to absolutely nothing. The man advantage has done nothing for this team and once again, in the early stages of the biggest game of the season, nothing to show for it. Head-scratching stuff considering the talent level. The Leafs would get another look on the powerplay after Charlie McAvoy took a slashing penalty at the 12:19 mark of the first. Once again, no execution.
Then with just under five minutes to go in the opening frame, Ryan Reaves decided he was going to try and go across the zone with his clearing attempt from the half wall. Wrong idea from Maple Leafs’ fourth liner as James van Riemsdyk took advantage. Reaves’ reaction says it all:
This was a backbreaker and momentum killer. Any goal in the last five minutes of a period stings, but even more so when it’s against a team you’ve beaten once out of seven previous attempts this season, facing a goaltender you’ve yet to beat, in the biggest game of the season. While it was only one goal, it was a devasting one that put the Leafs behind the eight ball and once again they were chasing the game.
It was all downhill from here. The second period felt like the end of the Maple Leafs season. Max Domi once again took an undisciplined penalty, and Brad Marchand made him pay. Another power-play goal, imagine that. And while it’s never one player’s fault for losing a hockey game, on the Marchand goal, Mitch Marner was lost trying to kill the penalty. Paul Bissonnette broke it down on the TNT telecast and hit the nail on the head, Marner looked horrible in this sequence:
Then with just under a minute left in the second frame, David Pastrnak put the Bruins up three goals and took the wind out of Toronto’s sails. The Bruins core players leading the charge while the Maple Leafs core were busy chirping each other on their bench. It sure looks like both William Nylander and Auston Matthews were letting Marner hear it:
This was about as ugly as it’s ever been for this core. Unconnected and becoming uncivilized. They’re hanging on by a thread in this series as they could be entering their last hockey game together as a unit. Absolutely wild times in Toronto.
The Game 5 outlook is bleak, to say the least. Matthews is battling a sickness, Nylander’s battling migraines and Marner’s battling himself. Everything is happening and absolutely nothing is happening all at the same time. No execution. And now, it feels like no chance.

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