What went right for Tyler Bertuzzi in the playoffs last season and how he can do it for the Maple Leafs

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
15 days ago
Tyler Bertuzzi’s seven games of playoff experience against the Florida Panthers last year is one of the reasons why he’s a Maple Leaf today. His regular season history has its strong moments and his “snot” no matter the time of the year was a factor for sure, but while the Leafs didn’t have much success against the Panthers last year, Bertuzzi did (even if the Bruins were bounced.)
In his seven games against the Panthers, Bertuzzi had 5 goals and 10 points, threw 18 hits and drew 6 penalties (taking 3). The results are pretty darn good, just don’t look at the 5v5 underlying numbers which show Bertuzzi’s line getting outchanced and outscored 7 to 4. Still, Bertuzzi delivered results and I guess it comes down to learning a bit about who he was playing with and determining the way to get the best of him on the Leafs.
Before going too far down that path the first thing that needs to be noted is that only 4 of Bertuzzi’s points came at 5v5. This is probably a good sign that Bertuzzi needs to be a centrepiece of the powerplay. In a time of year for greasy goals, Bertuzzi needs his opportunity in prime scoring situations whether that is carving out a spot for him on the top unit or balancing the two units so that Bertuzzi has the right players working with him to create opportunities, finding a powerplay situation that works with Tyler seems essential. The Bruins used Bertuzzi on their top unit with Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, and either Bergeron or Zacha as the centre. I’d suggest the Leafs use him with Domi, Matthews, Liljegren, and Marner to most closely recreate that situation and trust that Nylander, Tavares, and Rielly can form the foundation for a strong secondary unit.
At 5v5, there was a little less success for Bertuzzi on the scoresheet so there is probably some room for improving on what the Bruins did. Bertuzzi was moved around a little bit more and given that the Bruins lost the series in 7 games, some line juggling was to be expected. When it came to playing Bertuzzi with Pastrnak or Marchand the Bruins didn’t get the results they’d hoped for. The Bruins were outscored when Bertuzzi was on with either of the top wingers. He wasn’t on for any goals with either Bergeron or Krejci and 3 and 2 against him respectively with those top centres. Zacha and Coyle worked far better for Bertuzzi and while the Leafs are potentially starting Bertuzzi with Matthews, there might be a lesson to be learned from the Bruins here and Bertuzzi as a secondary scoring option might be what is best.
There’s also something to be said about who Bertuzzi plays against equally success and to start the Leafs will be wise to get him away from Forsling and Ekblad, he certainly had a bad time last spring with -4 goal differentials against both of them. The forward that Bertuzzi struggled against was Matthew Tkachuk and if there was a thought that Bertuzzi might be a player that you’d want to get under Tkachuk’s skin and that Matthew would chase him around the ice, the previous results show that Tkachuk just ends up scoring goals instead. While Bertuzzi wasn’t dominant against anyone in particular last playoffs, he fared surprisingly well against Barkov but benefited most from when he was getting matched up against the Panthers’ sheltered scorers, perhaps another case for Bertuzzi on the third line.
There’s also something to be said for where Bertuzzi scores from on the ice. And that’s why he’s a Leaf. He scored 3 times from the front of the net off of 12 shots from that location, additionally adding a shot from within the crease. That net presence isn’t something we saw from the Leafs against the Panthers last season and now the addition of Bertuzzi and the Panther’s subtraction of Radko Gudas seems to make that real estate more attainable.
A lot can change in a year and obviously what has been working for Bertuzzi recently under a new coach on a new team is an important place to start rather than putting stock in what happened last year against a Florida Panthers team that has also undergone some changes. What is most encouraging is that Bertuzzi’s coming to life late last season produced a strong post-season performance and so far, history has been repeating itself in that Tyler has had a strong second half for the Leafs. Hopefully, the success against the Panthers will also come.
Data from Natural Stat Trick and NHL Edge

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