It’s been an interesting series so far. On one hand you have the Big Bad Bruins, winners of the Stanley Cup in 2011, and protectors of the realm that is the Northeast Division. On the other hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs, nine years without playoffs, and several decades of failed expectations. In their long awaited return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs the Leafs were faced with the task of beating the one team that has absolutely dominated them in recent years. And no one gave them a chance.
Unlike most of the regular season games between the Leafs and Bruins since the Phil Kessel trade, the Leafs have competed hard with their Original 6 counterparts from Boston. And yet, they find themselves entering the TD Garden Friday night down 3-1 in the series.
So what happens now? After a terrible but understandable hideous performance in Game 1 of this first round clash the Leafs have played good enough to at least prove they belong in this series. They’ve looked especially good in games two and four. But they haven’t gotten the positive results needed to find themselves in a comfortable situation heading to Boston for Game 5. For the young Leafs and their fans there can be some solace taken in the fact that it was never going to be easy playing a much more seasoned team like Boston. And a lesson can be attained from this first round if the Leafs do indeed lose as everyone expects of them. That lesson being, if you want to win in the playoffs you have to play amazingly in every game. Not in every second game. And not for the last twenty minutes of a game you’re losing 4-1. The Leafs best game in this series resulted in a Game 4 overtime win for the Bruins.
Can The Inexperienced Leafs Improve On Their Game 4 Performance?
With their backs against the wall and very few personal experiences to draw on, the Toronto Maple Leafs could easily lose Game 5 and no one will be shocked or surprised. There are many reasons for the Leafs to be discouraged after the OT loss on home ice that could potentially stand up as the most defining moment in the series. That’s one option. But the Leafs could also realize that they have done many things right against the Bruins and if they do those things better in the next game they can win it and make this series close again.
James van Riemsdyk Was A Member Of The 2010 Philadelphia Flyers That Came Back From A 3-0 Series Deficit Against The Boston Bruins.
The Leafs lack experience and no one can deny it but of the little experience they have, some of that is coming from behind to beat the Boston Bruins in the playoffs. Of course, this Bruins team is not the same one that let a stranglehold series lead slip but it’s also not the same team that won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Regardless of which Bruins team this is, it doesn’t change the fact that JVR can draw some strength from his past experiences against Boston and use that to help his Leafs believe they still have a chance.
When the Bruins let a 3-0 series lead slip against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 they did so without C David Krejci. Once again Krejci is proving himself as one of the best playoff performers in the NHL with outstanding numbers in this series against the Maple Leafs. In four games played he has 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points thus far in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What Has Changed For The Leafs From Game 4 To Game 5?
One thing has changed. And it could be a very minor thing or a major thing. It could not even be a thing at all if Randy Carlyle doesn’t want to be. After Mark Fraser’s horrific injury in the 3rd period of Game 4, Leafs coach Carlyle moved Jake Gardiner up to the second pairing with Cody Franson. The two were very strong together. Both Gardiner and Franson are puck movers and smart pinchers at the offensive blueline. When they played together it allowed the Leafs to ice five man units capable of sustaining pressure in Bostons’ zone better than they could before the birth of the pairing. If they play together in Game 5 it gives the Leafs at least one pair of defensemen with the ability to maintain possession on the offensive side of the ice. It could be enough to make the difference between winning and losing.
Have The Bruins Flipped The Switch Everyone Keeps Talking About?
It’s hard to say. At times they’ve looked unbelievably strong and at other times they’ve looked more lax than most expect from them. Maybe they haven’t flipped the switch yet. Or maybe they don’t have a switch to flip at all. In today’s NHL you won’t find a team that goes to the finals every year. Teams are too well coached and talent is too evenly dispersed around the league for that to happen. If the Bruins can flip this so called switch and become the team from 2011 again that would be rare by today’s standards. The Leafs shouldn’t fear the switch flipping of the Bruins. They should play Game 5 like the desperate must win situation it is and try to come out with a win.
Dion Phaneuf Is The Fall Guy For Game 4’s OT Loss.
Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf has taken responsibility for a bad decision at the offensive blueline that led directly to David Krejci’s Game 4 OT winner for the Bruins. Phaneuf has faced much criticism throughout his career and he’s clearly become comfortable with accepting his mistakes as was evident by his comments to The National Post – “I made a bad play, and it cost us the game” Phaneuf told reporters. The best way to make up for a bad play is to come out the next game and redeem yourself.
Earlier this season Dion Phaneuf was called out by fans and media alike for not fighting Canadiens forward Brandon Prust in an important game against the Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs lost the game and some thought Dion failed in his duties as captain by declining the fight. The very next night the Leafs went into Long Island and won a thriller 5-4 in OT. Dion Phaneuf scored the winner. If Dion can bounce back like that once again the Leafs chances of winning Game 5 are increased significantly.
Tomorrow night we will find out exactly what happens next between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs when they face off at TD Garden in Boston. For the Bruins it would mean a lot to end this thing and get those few extra days of rest. For the Leafs, they are fighting for their playoff lives. They have to play their best game of the season.