May 14, 2013 by bmcconnelluwo
The sound of silence wasn’t exactly what the Leafs were hoping for following their first home playoff game since 2004.
With 19,000 fans inside the Air Canada Centre and close to 10,000 outside watching on the big screen, the atmosphere in Toronto before game three was a festive one. Excitement and chanting fans painting the stadium and surroundings in blue and white were in abundance as were the hopes for a home win and a series lead.
That didn’t work out too well.
As the clock struck zero in the third period, the Leafs fell behind 2-1 in the series with a 5-2 loss to their division rivals. Not exactly the homecoming the fans were hoping for.
So what went wrong?
In a previous blog post I mentioned two major “Don’ts” that the Leafs had to avoid if they were going to beat the Bruins in game four. Unfortunately these Don’ts became Dos for the Leafs and, unsurprisingly, they became a big reason for their downfall.
Firstly, the turnovers have to stop. At least three of the Bruins goals last night were directly related to neutral or defensive zone turnovers. That’s not acceptable.
Adrenaline and nerves no doubt played a huge role in many of these plays but the results of the turnovers were catastrophic for the Leafs. For the most part they dominated the game—peppering the Bruins net minder with 47 shots—but these three plays were enough to top the Leafs without the two other tallies.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—eliminating neutral and defensive zone turnovers is going to make all the difference in games like this. The Bruins are by no means a high scoring team. Their goals for this season were higher than normal but still quite low compared to other contending teams. Their goals against, on the other hand were pretty stellar. You can’t expect to have five Bruins goals scored against you and hope to win the game.
That being said, this was the first game of the series in which the Leafs outshot the Bruins. Slamming 47 shots against Rask is what it’s going to take to come out on top in this series.
But they’ve got to get more traffic in front of the Bruins goalie so more of these will start going in. It’s great to get this many shots but Rask is too good of a goalie to leave him a clear view of the puck—he’s going to stop those all day.
So the Leafs are going to have to take a page out of Mr. van Riemsdyk’s playbook and park themselves directly in front of Rask. We’ve got enough fire power in the back end to drive the pucks through and enough sharp shooters up from to bury the rebounds.
Speaking of rebounds, that’s another problem the Leafs seem to be having in their own end. It’s no secret now that the Bruins and the rest of the league know that Reimer is a bit week in the glove hand and, furthermore, that he gives up quite a few rebounds.
Better rebound control on Reimer’s part and better rebound clearing by the Leafs defence are two things that need to be better going into game four.
That’s enough of the bad stuff. Here are some of the good things I took away from game three.
Even though they only capitalized on two shots of the 47 against Rask, the Leafs looked to have a lot of offensive jump and speed. Yes, there were very poor lapses in puck movement and defensive zone judgment but they did get a lot of shots through.
With a goalie like Rask at the helm, more shots are going to mean more goals… eventually. Keep the shots coming through and you’ll be rewarded.
The Leafs also seem to be getting better at handling the size of Chara.
Chara is huge—giant at the top of the beanstalk huge, slap a pair of metal teeth on him and he’d be a Bond villain huge—and he’s hard to play against. That’s nothing new.
But it’s nice to see players like Komarov, Orr, JVR and McLaren all taking runs at him, playing the body and even knocking him down on occasion.
He’s been having his way with Kessel since he left Boston; let’s start having our way with him.
So there you go. It wasn’t the result the 29,000 devoted fans in Toronto were hoping for last night but there were some positive takeaways from the game.
All is not lost yet. But we better hope that the Leafs can come out on top in game four because falling 3-1 in the series against a team like the Bruins will be like signing our death certificate.
And nobody wants to sign their own death certificate.