It’s always important at any time during a season or a series to think “it’s a long series, it’s not over yet”. Not until the opponent has won their fourth game of the series, there’s still that last fraying thread of hope, that cursed vestige of optimism that tricks the logical brain into thinking that your team has the slightest chance of winning a championship and haunts you for days.
The Leafs aren’t at that point yet—far from it, but the win by the team in Game 2, and a subsequent good performance in Game 3 marred by a couple of sloppy mistakes and a great performance from Tuukka Rask, can leave no rational person watching those games thinking “the Leafs don’t have a chance against the Bruins”.
But they do, and Boston still needs to win two more game. They’re only halfway there, and the 2-1 series deficit isn’t an impossible one to come back from. There are some aspects of the Maple Leafs game that do need fixing.
Here’s what people are saying…
Turnovers are a problem for the Leafs, says James Mirtle, but they’re also playing a pretty good team that knows where to pick their spots:
This wasn’t, in other words, a game won or lost based on pure, overwhelming dominance on the puck, as Toronto had given up so many of late. Instead, it came down to the Bruins sitting tight and waiting for critical errors to capitalize on, just as they did to great effect in winning a Stanley Cup two years ago.
Seventeen members of that club are still on board, and for all the talk of writing them off as old and out of sorts after an ugly 2-5-2 finish to their season, they very much remain a canny, veteran team.
David Shoalts meanwhile makes the Bruins weak spot, their depth, seem like their greatest attribute. Is Jaromir Jagr good enough to compensate for a fairly mediocre bottom six forwards and bottom four defencemen?
In the wake of the 5-2 Bruins win, which gives them a 2-1 lead in the first-round, best-of-seven series, the Leafs are once again left grasping for ways to counter the Bruins depth. They just don’t have the defensive players to counter the Bruins’ balanced attack – especially when the third line of Jaromir Jagr, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley is skating the way it did Monday.
The controversy of the day seems to be “faceoffs”. Tyler Bozak isn’t too happy with the Bruins’ “cheating”, which is a concern to Bozak. If he can no longer win faceoffs, the list of things Bozak does well drops from two to one. Reminds me of a movie I once saw:
Bob Slydell: So what you do is you take the puck from the linesman’s hand, and you move it back to your defencemen, so they can move it up to the wingers?
Tyler Bozak: Yes. That’s right.
Bob Porter: Well then I got to ask… why can’t the wingers just take the puck for themselves?
Tyler: Well, uh, wingers are not good at dealing with linesmen.
Slydell: You physically take the puck from the linesman?
Tyler: Well, no, not physically. I mean I went 12-for-29 in Game 2.
Porter: So you must take the puck… directly from the linesman?
Tyler: Unless I’m kicked out, but then my wingers handle that.
Slydell: Well, what would you say… you do here?
Tyler: Well look, I already told you! I take the faceoffs so the wingers don’t have to! I have people skills! I have chemistry! What the hell is wrong with you people?
And so on.
Over at the Sporting News, our pal Thom Drance, who got to sit in the pressbox with the wigs big and small on Monday night, came away praising Randy Carlyle was his mastery of the matchup game.
“It’s not as easy as you think,” Carlyle said of looking to match Kessel against any other Bruins defensive pairing. “You know that Chara is going to be out there for every defensive zone faceoff, so you try to work around it but in some situations you have to play your offensive players.”
Though Carlyle effectively freed up his best offensive player for six minutes in Game 3, Kessel wasn’t able to capitalize at even strength. In fact, he didn’t get a single quality look at even-strength in Game 3, though he did create a couple with his passing.
Yes, Thom and I are well-aware of the irony of a Vancouver-based blogger covering the Maple Leafs and a Toronto-based blogger covering the Canucks.
Today, Randy Carlyle offered Sean Fitz-Gerald a thoroughly unsatisfying explanation for why Clarke MacArthur continually finds himself out of the lineup. MacArthur seems philosophical:
“Whether this is it for me here or not, it’s not it for me in my career,” he said. “This will be motivation toward what I do next. Every time you kind of get bumped down a few spots, you kind of look back, appreciate what you had, and you want to work to get back to where you were.”
From our blogroll
And unfortunately this guy isn’t on it…
Hope in the Big Smoke has a fantastic post on how the Leafs are sticking with the Bruins in this series, although the Bruins do deserve credit for being the better team. [Hope in the Big Smoke]
Similar bit from Michael Langlois, who said the Leafs are “a bit more mistake-prone than their adversaries”. That’s not the nagging difference between the two clubs, but Toronto has less room for error, even if they’re in the series. [Vintage Leaf Memories]
Again, from Alec Brownscome “mistakes decide hockey games”. [Maple Leafs Hot Stove]
Anthony Petrelli stresses the number of shots the Leafs took and the number of faceoffs the Leafs lost. Unfortunately, those who do micro-analysis on faceoffs never seem to notice that any correlation between the two only shows up after lots and lots and lots of draws. [Maple Leafs Hot Stove]
Bower Power suggests that the game was won and lost on a couple of bounces. He also has a good line about Ryan O’Byrne, calling him “He’s the kind of guy I would expect to see go -3 in a night where the Leafs score 9 goals”. I disagree on O’Byrne. I think he’s a serviceable depth defender and pinning the Leafs’ issues at 5-on-5 in Game 3 all on him is outrageous, but I laughed. [Pension Plan Puppets]
Wasn’t just one mistake that cost the Leafs in Game 3… Justin Bourne looks down a number of things that went wrong on the Danny Paille shorthanded tally. [Backhand Shelf]
On “Toronto Stronger” [Stanley Cup of Chowder]
That guy was something that Steve touched on in his LFR after Game 3. It’s pretty inhuman to make a joke off of a serious tragedy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some unlicensed t-shirt manufacturers in Boston capitalizing off the slogan to make a quick joke, just as this guy was using the slogan to get a dumb laugh or two. You’d hope that we eventually stop having to talk about these fans after some time, not because they’ve carved themselves back into the woodwork, but because their mistakes sort of go without saying.
Like, this guy:
Montreal fan wears message of heartfelt conciliation with homemade “Gryba Will Die” t-shirt.twitpic.com/cozncq
— Stu Mills (@StuMillsCBC) May 7, 2013
Maybe it’s just that people take sports a little too seriously, or that it’s so easy to write a message of condemnation that it appears if you don’t, it’s as if you’re standing with the idiots.
Anyway, Game 4 runs on Wednesday. We’ll be live from the basement covering it all.