It’s fair to say the Leafs made their share of mistakes on Monday night, but they also did a number of things right. Comparing the two, it can be argued that the positives actually outweigh the negatives.
In terms of the negatives, many of the regular complaints launched against the Leafs were on display again. They continue to turn the puck over at an alarming rate and poor defensive coverage in their own end led directly to several goals. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that James Reimer is upset with the play of the guys in front of him.
The Leafs can also be criticized for allowing the emotion of Monday’s game to overwhelm them. It might have been the team’s first playoff appearance in nine years, but it was important for them to stay grounded in their many accomplishments this season. Instead, the Leafs showed their nervousness. At times, they looked like a team that thought it should be playing anywhere else than in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
All of these various weaknesses came to the forefront during the second period where the Leafs surrendered three goals.
On the surface, this might sound like a full-out rout, but I beg to disagree.
First, the Leafs continue to outhit Boston. This is important because the Bruins are often depicted as a tough opponent to play against but it’s actually the Leafs who have earned the edge in this department. Colton Orr in particular has been a pain in the side of Boston captain Zdeno Chara and the extra attention may be taking its toll. Monday’s contest was by far Chara’s worst game to date in the series.
Second, Phil Kessel continues to score against the Bruins. Freed from the Boston curse, Kessel is the type of player who can give the Leafs a clear advantage on the scoreboard.
Third, the Leafs finally outshot the Bruins. This was a small victory on Monday, but it bodes well for the team moving forward. The butterflies are gone so Tuukka Rask better be ready to show his best butterfly.
Finally, the Leafs came alive in the third period to really dictate the flow of play. It obviously came too late to help, but I thought this was actually the best period of play by the Leafs all season. If anything, it was their best period of play against the Bruins in the last two years. This is where the Leafs recorded most of their shots in Game 3 – 18 shots out of 47 total in the game – and hopefully they can keep up the momentum.
It remains unknown if the Leafs have enough gas left in the tank to comeback and win the series. They’ve put themselves in another hole, but if they continue the strong play that emerged during the third period of Monday’s game, then I see little season to bet against them.
In the third period, the Leafs had the Bruins on their heels and Leafs Nation on its feet. This is the team we all know and this is the team we hope to see again tomorrow night.
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