In a game that had strong playoff implications, the Leafs were edged 3-2 on home ice by the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. Toronto proved that they can be competitive against their Atlantic Division rivals who have ousted them in the post-season twice since 2013. But defensive miscues were the Leafs’ undoing as the team suffered their fourth loss in the past six outings.
- Although William Nylander didn’t get on the scoresheet, he did show flashes of his previous self; the player that warranted the $6.969 million annual contract that he signed in December. Nylander had a very strong shift in the first period that led the Leafs to sustained pressure in the Boston zone for over a minute.
- Andreas Johnsson and Mitch Marner were the goal scorers for Toronto. Marner’s goal was on the power play, ending a five-game drought for the Leafs during which they had failed to score with the man advantage.
- The Leafs had a strong penalty kill to start the second period. The best scoring chances for either team belonged to Toronto; a partial breakaway by Marner, and a 2-on-1 rush led by Zach Hyman, both of which were stopped by Tuukka Rask.
- The Leafs had a terrible start off the opening faceoff and nearly gave up a goal to the line that has been their nemesis; Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. Only Marchand’s inexplicable miss of a wide open net prevented the score from being 1-0 in Boston’s favour, early.
- Many of the Leafs’ top guns have been silent during this rough patch:
Mike Babcock's message to snakebitten scorers: "You've got to push through it … a little struggle in your life never hurt anybody. Just dig in."
Matthews: 1 goal in last 9
Nylander: 1 goal in 16 GP
Marleau: 0 goals in last 9
Kadri: 1 goal in last 17
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 13, 2019
- Toronto’s inability to pick up the late man coming off the opposing bench led to late goals in each of the first two periods. In the opening frame, David Krejci netted the icebreaker when he was left unguarded by Auston Matthews. Then, Boston’s third goal – the eventual game winner – was scored with 13.9 seconds left in the second period when neither Nazem Kadri nor Nylander paid attention to Pastrnak entering the Leafs zone.
In 2016, Rob wrote “Hockey’s Enforcers: A Dying Breed”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.