Reimer steals Game 5: Maple Leafs have life with 2-1 win in Beantown

Jared Wickerham, Getty via NHL Interactive

With a nervous 2-1 win Friday night at the TD Garden, the Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team of the 2013 NHL playoffs to successfully stave off elimination. It wasn’t a Rembrandt, but it wasn’t exactly a Picasso either. The Leafs controlled the first period of the game but didn’t score until two defensive breakdowns by the Bruins.

When the series began I had picked the Bruins in five—on the theory that the Bruins would control the series five-on-five and the scoring chances in each game, but James Reimer would end up stealing one for the Maple Leafs. That was Game 5, apparently, but it’s no less likely from here on out that Reimer steals Game 6 or 7.

The Leafs got a shorthanded goal from Tyler Bozak and an even strength goal from Clarke MacArthur at the beginning of the third period. From there I think we all knew that Boston was going to absolutely pour it on offensively and they did, getting a goal from Zdeno Chara midway through the frame. Jaromir Jagr especially played a very good game in the offensive zone, but the expected threats from the Bruins, Tyler Seguin, David Krejci and Nathan Horton, were invisible around the net.

The nail biting muscles got a workout towards the end of the third. A delay-of-game penalty by Bozak, an icing, and a defensive zone draw with 12 seconds to go offered up several chances for the Bruins to tie it up, but Reimer was strong. Ready to do it all again on Sunday?

This is an odd game to analyze sometimes because the flow of play sometimes doesn’t match the results. Other than the Chara goal, that came at the end of an extended shift inside the Leafs zone, the goals went against the flow of play.

TV guys, and Glenn Healy is especially bad at this, like to discuss “momentum” and “momentum swings”. A team that strings two or three good shifts in a row is deemed to “have the momentum” even if we’ve observed over time that goals are random events that go against the flow of play.

MacArthur’s goal came after two Boston scoring chances and a shift by the Krejci line in the Toronto zone. Bozak’s goal was on a Boston power play, on a sequence right after the team earned a couple of shots and a scoring chance. Breakdowns and turnovers happen regardless of what occurred previously, and merely observing a collection of good plays in a sequence is not an indication that the sequence holds much in the way of predictive value. I read a Game 4 recap on a blog called 50 Mission Cap that pointed out “for whatever reason, the team that generated the best scoring chances in playoff OT always seemed to lose.” Who knows if that’s true? But it seems like it, particularly when your team is on the losing end. Consider Reimer’s performance tonight as the hockey gods making it up to Leafs Nation.

So this isn’t a game where puck possession would really mean anything, but regardless… the Leafs took 48 shot attempts at even strength and the Bruins took 71. That’s not intending to say that all of those shots were of identical quality, it indicates that the bulk of the game was spent in the Toronto zone and everybody realized that. When teams are trailing, they tend to pour it on in the late stages.

The Bruins also out-chanced the Leafs 18-13 overall, and 17-8 at even strength. The Leafs we saw in Game 4, particularly Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson, that played great in that game returned to a more human form in the fifth game. Gardiner and Franson together were together +2/-8 in scoring chances as the Bruins looked to be trapping a little more and preventing that outlet, but they were also very stingy at keeping pucks in, taking fewer risks pinching. Or perhaps that’s my own justification for why those two together in Game 4 were so excellent yet so average in Game 5.

It’s weird to say these things about a win that keeps the team season alive, so…

And also…

I think Cody and Jake should share their post-game Dunkaroos with James Reimer after that.

It’s funny that all year long, the analytical wing of the Maple Leafs blogosphere was lobbying to have Gardiner, MacArthur, and Mikhail Grabovski log a few more minutes, and the three have been welcome surprises for some.

MacArthur was the only Leaf in the “plus” territory for the night, but his usage was restricted for some reason.

Grabovski did this:

It wouldn’t have counted, but it’s pretty funny nonetheless. What else is he going to do? At that point Grabovski had three shot attempts that counted as scoring chances. He’s been creating all series now that he isn’t starting every shift in the defensive zone, but nothing’s been going in for him. He’s playing well and even Don Cherry and some of the CBC intermission suits have praised his play.

Tyler Bozak… we’ve ragged on Bozak a lot this season but he was a special kind of awful, and Randy Carlyle is even worse for calling a timeout with 12 seconds to go to rest Bozak, Jay McClement and Nik Kulemin while also resting Boston’s best players. Bozak was 7-20 on face-offs to that point. Not 7-of-20, 7-and-20. He’s been beaten so many times at the dot this spring and keeps getting the big face-offs because there’s otherwise no way to justify keeping him on the roster.

The Leafs were out-chanced 1-9 at 5-on-5 with Bozak on the ice and out-shot 12-23. It’s fair to say that the stats were run up against him because he played 10 shifts in the third period when the Bruins were pressing, but he had a whack of missed clearing attempts, lousy outlet passes and overskating the puck on clear scoring chance opportunities.

Rather than call the timeout (the Bruins had already burned theirs) the Leafs could have gone with Grabovski, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk. All through the regular season, Grabovski and Komarov were on the ice in similar situations, and van Riemsdyk is an adequate Nik Kulemin clone in the defensive end. It would have also caused the Bruins to play their top forwards against a tired line, or send out David Krejci or Chris Kelly or somebody not as good at face-offs as Bergeron to take the draw.

It seems dumb to nitpick on retrospect because the Bruins didn’t score… but Tyler Seguin hit a post after Bozak lost the draw. If you aren’t going to win face-offs as a face-off specialist…

Dion Phaneuf had a much stronger game than in Game 4, ending up as an “even” in chances although he was clearly labouring at the end of the third and was one of the guys caught out on the long shift that led to the Bruins lone goal. Otherwise, him and Gunnarsson didn’t seem to get caught in the first couple of periods. Phaneuf didn’t have much of a matchup, being on the road. He played 16.7 minutes and 9.9 of those against Nathan Horton. 9.8 against Krejci and Milan Lucic, a little over 5 against the Bruins’ first line.

The Patrice Bergeron line steamrollered Bozak in scoring chances (and Joffrey Lupul to another extent) and also the Franson-Gardiner unit. Two lines, tough for any one team to match up against them, but you hope that the Leafs are better at containing both of those units in the sixth game of the series.

For all the talk about Tuukka Rask being much stronger at rebounds than James Reimer, I’m comfortable saying that I’ve tracked more scoring chances off of Rask rebounds than Reimer. Perhaps this means that Rask is worse at controlling rebounds or driving shots to the right areas, or it means that the Leafs’ collapsing ‘D’ is better equipped to clear pucks. The “second chance” and “third chance” opportunities have all seemed to come at the Boston cage in this series.

Again, tough game to analyze. Not a lot of chess playing between Carlyle and Claude Julien, and two of the three goals went against play, and ultimately, the game did. It was good enough for the Leafs to win their second game of the series and they’ll go home to Toronto with a chance to send the series to a seventh game, but if they play like that for the final games of the series, it’s unlikely that they’ll win it.

Individual Scoring Chance Differential:

Toronto Chances For Chances Vs. Chance Diff
Nazem Kadri 2 3 -1
Clarke MacArthur 3 1 2
Phil Kessel 0 4 -4
Mikhail Grabovski 3 4 -1
James van Riemsdyk 1 6 -5
Nik Kulemin 4 6 -2
Tyler Bozak 1 9 -8
Joffrey Lupul 2 5 -3
Matt Frattin 1 5 -4
Jay McClement 1 2 -1
Colton Orr 0 0 0
Leo Komarov 0 0 0
Dion Phaneuf 3 3 0
Carl Gunnarsson 3 3 0
Cody Franson 2 8 -6
Jake Gardiner 2 9 -7
Ryan O’Byrne 1 3 -2
John-Michael Liles 1 4 -3
Boston Chances For Chances Vs. Chance Diff
Patrice Bergeron 6 1 5
Tyler Seguin 5 1 4
Brad Marchand 4 1 3
David Krejci 5 3 2
Milan Lucic 5 4 1
Nathan Horton 5 5 0
Chris Kelly 3 1 2
Rich Peverley 3 1 2
Jaromir Jagr 4 0 4
Gregory Campbell 1 1 0
Danny Paille 1 0 1
Shawn Thornton 1 0 1
Zdeno Chara 10 1 9
Dennis Seidenberg 8 1 7
Andrew Ference 7 3 4
Johnny Boychuk 4 5 -1
Matt Bartkowski 0 2 -2
Adam McQuaid 3 0 3

Team Totals:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Toronto (EV) 6 (2) 3 (2) 4 (4) 13 (8)
Boston (EV) 2 (2) 8 (7) 8 (8) 18 (17)


LeafsNation Three Stars

  1. James Reimer
  2. Jaromir Jagr
  3. Zdeno Chara
  • justVisiting

    Good game analysis as always. Ive come to trust you Cam but can you help me out here? My eyes tell me that the leafs deserved this game.

    As always I seek the truth. What about score effects? Leafs ability to keep shots outside and clear rebounds?

  • millzy09

    “…if they play like that for the final games of the series, it’s unlikely that they’ll win it.”

    Leafs were the better team for 2 periods and you said it yourself, in this article and in many past articles, that stats are difficult to judge and skewed when a one team is trailing. This is especially true when it is multiple goals down.

    Bruins took A LOT of risks in the 3rd and got away with ALL of them. Most games, that kind of play results in multiple odd man rushes the other way due to over aggressive pinching and excellent scoring opportunities.

    Boston doesn’t play that way in other circumstances and the stats aren’t as lopsided. In a 2-0 circumstance, Toronto gets some extra scoring chances, due to heavy pinching. If the Leafs play like this in for 6 and 7, they give themselves a great chance to win.

    • It’s true, but the amount that the Bruins poured it on at the end there… usually those shots don’t turn into chances. They’re outside efforts and desperation attempts. The Bruins got close. Too, too many times.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Hi Cam, do you know if there is a source for zone exit data, like clearing and riding stats for lacrosse? I am semi-interested in finding out if the leafs only get it out a small percentage or if it just seems that way when the game is watched, because it sticks out.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Cam – thanks for these recaps. They are my first read in the morning.

    It would be interesting to see scoring chances by period, so fans can get a better feel for score effects.

    Keep up the good work!