May 11, 2013 by The Hockey Daily.
With their backs against the wall and momentum in the Bruins corner after Game 4, the Toronto Maple Leafs managed to find a way to win Game 5 at TD Garden. The way the Leafs lost Game 4 in OT off a Dion Phaneuf risky pinch gone wrong which led to a series of subsequent mistakes gave every reason to believe they would be discouraged and ripe for a beating in Boston. And who knows? Had the Bruins come out and scored two early goals they could’ve sucked the life right out of the young Leafs team. But that didn’t happen. The Leafs came out flying and carried the play in the first period. In doing so, it quickly became clear that the Boston Bruins were going to need to raise their level to finish off the Leafs.
It Was A New Look Leafs In Game 5.
The Leafs team that looked like they didn’t belong in the playoffs from Game 1 is much different than the one we saw grind out a win in Boston last night. The addition of Jake Gardiner to the lineup has made the Buds a more capable team with the puck on their stick. In Game 5, Gardiner’s role on the team increased even more. He moved up to a pairing with Cody Franson, allowing the Leafs one D combo capable of dominating possession, which they did often until the Leafs took a 2-0 lead. Gardiner led all Leafs defenseman in ice-time with 24:05 minutes played.
Jay McClement has been great for the Leafs all season, and in Game 5 he was rewarded with more responsibility. He delivered. McClement had been playing on the 4th line through the first four games of the series while being spotted in as a defensive face-off guy at times on other lines. Last night, he played a more significant role on a line with Nik Kulemin as a defensive unit against Krejci, Horton and Lucic. They did very well to slow down the Bruins most offensively efficient line this series.
Carl Gunnarsson played his best game in a Leafs uniform. For a guy not known to play physically he really stepped up last night and played a solid game against the Krejci unit. His 19:48 minutes of even strength ice-time was second to only Jake Gardiner amongst Leafs defensemen. Following Game 4’s loss, Gunnarsson told reporters, “Against every top line that’s buzzing you’ve just got to play more physical, be tight on them, don’t give them any time and just try to be a mean bastard down there.” Who knew he had it in him?
The Bruins Slow Start Cost Them The Game.
Is it any wonder 5 of the last 6 playoff series played by the Boston Bruins have reached a 7th game? After last night it isn’t. With all the momentum and the home crowd on their side they came out slow against a desperate team and it cost them. The Bruins by all accounts are the superior squad in this series. They field a roster of 16 Stanley Cup Champions, a goaltender with playoff experience, and arguably the best defenseman in the NHL – the dominant Zdeno Chara.
As great as the Bruins appear they are not perfect and it showed last night. At points throughout the season and in last year’s first round loss to the Washington Capitals the Bruins have proven on some nights they can’t convert quality chances into goals. On those nights they often lose.
The Bruins poured on the pressure late creating many quality chances but they just couldn’t find the back of the net enough. Boston had 19 shots on goal in the 3rd period, only managing to score one goal.
Chara took over the 3rd period.
He was the best player on the ice last night in the final twenty minutes. It was like someone built a wall at centre ice when Z was out there. Every time a Leaf was within 15 feet of Zdeno they were stripped of the puck, thrown to the ground or poke checked out of possession. There is really no answer for Chara, you just have to do your best to neutralize him and take advantage of situations when he’s not on the ice. For Leafs fans who remember him as the guy your team would beat regularly in the playoffs circa 2002-04 as a member of the Sens, this Chara is a different animal. A bigger scarier one.
At the 11:12 mark of the 3rd period the Bruins big captain scored a rocket from the point on a beautiful saucer pass from David Krejci to bring his team within one goal. With the ice tilting toward Reimer’s net he continued to lead a charge against the Leafs that could have very easily ended up in a tying goal for Boston if not for some enormous saves by the Leafs goaltender.
With 3:48 left in the 3rd period and the Bruins pressing, Chara, a defenseman, was the first man in on a forecheck that caused Leafs’ centre Tyler Bozak to flip the puck out of play for a delay of game penalty. The Bruins however, could not get the tying goal with the man advantage. The 26th best power-play in the NHL throughout the regular season has struggled against the Leafs in this series, going 3 for 16.
The Goaltenders Put On A Show In TD Garden.
It was the first real playoff quality performance from both goalies in the same night thus far in this series. Tuukka Rask and James Reimer, both Leafs draft picks, were called upon many times throughout the evening to be amazing and they both answered the call.
Rask faced 19 shots in the first period alone. A period in which the Leafs could have walked out of with a lead of at least 1 if Rask hadn’t stood on his head. He stopped 31 pucks in a losing effort that cannot be pinned on him.
Reimer, after an easy 1st period was called upon to bail his team out over and over again in the 2nd and 3rd periods. He made a highlight real toe save on Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron in the 2nd. Reimer came up huge again late in the 3rd period with a knob of the stick robbing of NHL legend Jaromir Jagr, followed by a last second piece of the puck stop deflecting a Tyler Seguin point shot enough to miss the top corner and hit the post right before the final horn. Reimer made 43 saves in the win.