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Sports Bruce Arthur: Leafs back on track, just in time

14:50  17 april  2018
14:50  17 april  2018 Source:   thestar.com

Bruce Arthur: Leafs have what they need to beat Bruins and more

  Bruce Arthur: Leafs have what they need to beat Bruins and more On Saturday night, after completing their odd and successful regular season, the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t know who they would play: Tampa, with all its firepower, or Boston, with all its hockey muscles. Sunday night, the Bruins had a chance to clinch the division and send the Leafs to Florida. They didn’t.So now it’s the Bruins, and we can revisit 2013 later. This year the Bruins were a mashing machine, rolling to a top-four record despite extensive injuries. They are a dominant puck-possession team. Toronto beat them three out of four, one in overtime. But this is the hard path.

Opinion | Bruce Arthur : Leafs back on track , just in time . Just as important as the win — with goals also from a jubilant Auston Matthews and James van Riemsdyk — was the fact that the Leafs kept Boston’s big guns off the scoreboard.

win when they really need it at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night, Bruce Arthur writes. Maple Leafs release last-minute seats on the cheap. Pastrnak knows linemates have his back . And it’s not just what people are saying. You want to be the best player in the world, and it’s not going the


BOSTON—You could almost hear the gasps across the city. Tomas Plekanec was the second-line centre in the biggest game of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs; oh, dear. Down 2-0 to the Boston Bruins, and Plekanec charged with dealing with the best line in hockey, and a loss was the season. Down the street, the baseball roof cracked and leaked in Toronto Monday night. And at the rink, one was in danger of caving right in.

But the 35-year-old Plekanec said “It’s never about one guy,” and he was right. Through two games the gap between the Boston Bruins and the Leafs was so wide Zdeno Chara could not have stretched across it. And back in Toronto, the Leafs — jumbled, altered, short-handed — just played the way they can play. This, finally, was the team they were supposed to be.

Bruce Arthur: Leafs have what they need to beat Bruins and more

  Bruce Arthur: Leafs have what they need to beat Bruins and more On Saturday night, after completing their odd and successful regular season, the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t know who they would play: Tampa, with all its firepower, or Boston, with all its hockey muscles. Sunday night, the Bruins had a chance to clinch the division and send the Leafs to Florida. They didn’t.So now it’s the Bruins, and we can revisit 2013 later. This year the Bruins were a mashing machine, rolling to a top-four record despite extensive injuries. They are a dominant puck-possession team. Toronto beat them three out of four, one in overtime. But this is the hard path.

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Bruce Arthur : Leafs back on track , just in time . Bruins know they have to stop Leafs from stretching their wings. Lost Leafs should embrace the future back home | The Star - www.thestar.com. Down two games to the Bruins might seem hopeless, but the Leafs are better than this.

And the result was a rollicking, breathtaking 4-2 win that cut Boston’s lead in this first-round best-of-seven to two games to one. Patrick Marleau sealed it with 3:35 left on a two-on-one with Plekanec; Boston never stopped, and between that and some magic from Frederik Andersen, that was enough.

Leafs Auston Matthews, James van Riemsdyk and Connor Brown head for their first post-season post-game celebration of 2018 after beating the Bruins 4-2 at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night.© Rick Madonik Leafs Auston Matthews, James van Riemsdyk and Connor Brown head for their first post-season post-game celebration of 2018 after beating the Bruins 4-2 at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night.

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The rink had seemed smaller in Boston, claustrophobic, filled with dangerous freight trains that, if you didn’t look, would run you right over. It was a Game 1 hit on Mitch Marner that led to Nazem Kadri getting suspended for three games, and it was a Game 2 hit on Marner that prompted Ron Hainsey to take an instigator penalty, and Boston made it 4-0 on the power play.

Bruce Arthur: Leafs’ Rielly, Gardiner embracing the ‘responsibility’ of playoff hockey

  Bruce Arthur: Leafs’ Rielly, Gardiner embracing the ‘responsibility’ of playoff hockey Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner went to dinner together Monday night. The two defencemen have grown up together over the past five years in Toronto: living together, living apart, staying together on the road even when they didn’t have to. They can be honest with one another about how much is on their shoulders. “We talked about that,” said Rielly, two days before the Toronto Maple Leafs play Game 1 of their first-round series with the Boston Bruins. “We talked about the importance of us being the best we can be, and as a player you want to take that and run with it. You want to be the best you can be.

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And that led to Plekanec in Game 3, elevated from his greybeard fourth-line role instead of shifting one of William Nylander or Patrick Marleau from the wing, both of which were attempted in Game 2. Instead, Babcock went with what he believed. When Plekanec and the fourth line got hemmed and scored on by Boston’s big three of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in Game 1, Babcock said the assignment wasn’t a mistake. He said, “That’s their job.”

That, in a lot of ways, was a problem with the Leafs in the first two games: so many players didn’t live up to their own expectations.

And from the start in Game 3, these were the guys you knew. They skated; they competed; they created space. A power-play goal from James van Riemsdyk out front. A Kasperi Kapanen breakaway and a Kasperi Kapanen post, on separate plays. After Adam McQuaid, Boston’s approximate version of Roman Polak, snuck a clean shot through traffic that tied it in the second, Morgan Rielly — who was having a bafflingly bad series — skated a puck out of trouble and threw a stretch pass that Marner reeled in, and Marner found the streaking Marleau 55 seconds after the McQuaid goal.

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It helped that Plekanec got to play with better players. But that’s what these guys are supposed to do.

And after Boston tied it again when Chara banked a red-line wrist shot off the back of Andersen’s helmet — that was two bad goals — the Leafs didn’t blink. They kept playing, kept skating. And with 5:13 left in the period the Auston Matthews line pinned the great Boston trio in the Bruins zone, and Nylander found Matthews for an assassin’s wrist shot.

Matthews, who had no points in the series to that point, celebrated with ferocity, because this is what he lives for. The Bergeron line had been on the ice for both Toronto even-strength goals. You want to beat the best, beat them.

And all that got Toronto, of course, was a chance to win a classic coin-flip playoff game, until late. But these are the Leafs. They can skate, they can score, and their young stars drive them. To beat the Bruins, out-skate them, and compete like hell. Luck helps, too. Boston’s first power play in the third period was a shooting gallery: Marchand hit a post, Pastrnak hit a post, Pastrnak got a half-breakaway, and the Leafs avoided the falling pianos.

Bruins know they have to stop Leafs from stretching their wings

  Bruins know they have to stop Leafs from stretching their wings The Boston Bruins vowed Tuesday to focus harder on the Leafs’ strategic weapon — the odd-man rush sprung from the stretch pass. The Leafs, the Bruins said, are the one team in the NHL that features the stretch pass regularly, and excels at it despite the risks involved.“They play that style where they want to counter you with their speed,” Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy said Tuesday. “You have to keep five (of your) guys in front of them all the time. They’ll go for those chances … they cheat the game a little, but that’s their style, they’ll do it to you all the time.

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Toronto needed breaks, but then every team does. The Bruins are great. But Babcock had insisted that no matter what he did with the lines, no matter his defence pairs, they just needed to find the proper level of focus, of controlled desperation. That wasn’t entirely true, of course: deployment matters. And Babcock bet right enough on Plekanec, along with everyone else.

“Yeah, I would say I’d like to be better, but you know, the team’s doing well, so I didn’t see any point of changing anything, obviously, and I try to do my best with any ice time I get,” said Plekanec before the game. “Personally, I never really talk about ice time. It doesn’t really matter. But every player will say the more he plays the better he feels, the more confident he feels. We’ll operate one shift at a time, and go from there.”

That was the only way to proceed. It still is. This was the season, and the Leafs left the sloppy, jumpy, lost team they had been in Boston behind them. This series was supposed to be a coin flip between two good teams, and through the first two games only one of them showed up. They’re both here, now, and you could hear the gasps to the end, until the crowd cheered.

Bruce Arthur: Leafs find new ways to blow Game 7 in Boston .
It wasn’t 4-1 this time, but that didn’t matter. The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t have a trap door open beneath their feet and swallow them all at once: this time, the annihilation came step by step. Last time, the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead. This time, they did it differently: they blew three one-goal leads, one at a time.And in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins, the Leafs allowed four third-period goals and lost 7-4. This series started with the Leafs looking like they weren’t ready for the stage, and after everything, it ended the same way. They blew it. Toronto led 1-0, 2-1, and 4-3 going into the third.

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