A rare historic feat occurred during playoff action on Saturday night. The Toronto Maple Leafs won a playoff game! The convincing 4-2 victory gave the Leafs their first playoff win since 2004 and it came against the dreaded Boston Bruins.
After a lacklustre effort in game one of the series, in which many questioned whether or not the Leafs would be able to compete, the Leafs came out in game two and put forth their most complete effort of the season. Everything the Leafs did wrong in game one, seemed to be fixed in game two and the Leafs proved that they were here to compete.
Not only did the Leafs get a win against the big bad Bruins who have had their number as of late, Phil Kessel also scored his first even strength goal against his former club. The goal by Kessel turned out to be the winner, as he snuck the puck five-hole on Tuukka Rask, after a beautiful pass from Nazem Kadri.
This was the first game in a long while where the Leafs didn’t have to rely on James Reimer to save the day. Reimer still did his job stopping 39 Bruins shots, but his teammates helped him out by scoring 4 goals; When was the last time the Leafs did that?
While Kessel scored the game-winning goal and Joffrey Lupul scored two goals, the most improved and perhaps the player who had the most impact, didn’t get on the scoreboard.
wouldn’t have been able to mix lines and fool Claude Julien. Bozak centred two lines during the game; the first being his usual line with Kessel and Lupul and the second being with Matt Frattin and Lupul. By Bozak centering the second line with his usual first line winger in Lupul, the Leafs were able to draw Zdeno Chara onto the ice in anticipation of Kessel jumping on after the face-off. This forced the Bruins to waste a shift with Chara and allow Kessel to play shifts away from the big defenceman and instead face-off against a weaker Dennis Seidenberg.
The Leafs came out in game two and did exactly what they needed too. They didn’t try and play a more physical game than the Bruins, although they did out-hit them 44-35, they out-skated, used more skill and flat out out-smarted them; major props to Randy Carlyle for making the changes he needed to.
He recognized that he needed to get Phil Kessel and the first line away from Zdeno Chara, so he found ways to do that. During game two you never knew who was coming over the boards, the lines were being mixed up almost every shift. One shift Kessel and Kadri would be together and on another Kessel back with Bozak. The Leafs successfully kept the Bruins guessing and managed to expose some weakness.
The two biggest gaffs for the Briuns in game two, were poor pinches by their defence and an inability to break-out quickly and control the puck. The Bruins got caught playing a little too confident. After dominating the Leafs in game one, they got off to a slow start and let the Leafs carry the pace early on. The good news for Bruins fans’ is all their issues are fixable and Andrew Ference will be back for game three and that will help their game immensely.
One of the area’s the Leafs need to beat the Bruins is on the special teams. The Bruins took 4 penalties and the Leafs managed to capitalize on one of them (and one just as it expired). When the Bruins take dumb penalties- which they’ve been doing, the Leafs need to make them pay on the scoreboard. Which they managed to do in game two.
This was a huge win for the Leafs on every front. James Reimer, Nazem Kadri and many young players got their first playoff win and now know they can compete and win in the playoffs. They snuck a win out of Boston which they really needed and they now know they can beat the Bruins. The only problem for the Leafs, is this game will serve as a wake-up call for the Bruins, much like game one for the Leafs.
The Bruins now know the Leafs aren’t going to go down without a fight and they need to come out with energy every game. Never the less with the series tied at 1 and heading back to Toronto, the now best of 5 series will be extremely exciting.