Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports

Leafs Postgame: Inevitable

After all the discussion, you knew a game like this was coming. For a series where the shots were separated by four and the goals were separated by one, there was far too much talk about how the Leafs have broken the confines of hockey with their expertise domineering, or how the Capitals were irrepairably broken choke artists who have already lost the series.

It made no sense. These were two very good teams, one of which still a safer bet, that were neck and neck with each other through just three games. There really wasn’t a story to dig up, and there was no reason to believe that the Capitals couldn’t pull out a typical Capitals game out of their pocket.

Tonight.. was a very good example of that. For much fo the game, the Leafs were outplayed, out possessed, and generally out-hockeyed in a 5-4 game that felt even more lopsided than a single goal.

The Rundown

The Capitals flew out of the gate in this one, winning an offensive zone faceoff and quickly converting it into a TJ Oshie goal just three minutes in. A minute later, Tyler Bozak took a penalty for a high stick on Lars Eller, and seconds after that, Alex Ovechkin turned it into a powerplay goal.

The Leafs were quick to respond, though. William Nylander sent the puck from the boards to Jake Gardiner’s stick, and his ensuing shot found its way off Zach Hyman and into the net to close the gap. The Leafs nearly tied the game up a later in the period, but then…

Total, total misfortune. Minutes later, Wilson was at it again, perhaps getting away with a charging/interference penalty and burying a feed from Andre Burakovsky to make it a 4-1 game.

The Leafs did their best to rally, though, and even made the game a close one as it progressed. James van Riemsdyk picked up his second of the playoffs by banking a shot off of Dmitry Orlov and into the back of the net, and in the third period, Auston Matthews struck again with a heck of a drive to the slot:

Toronto then followed this up with an absolute catastrophe of a play in their own blue line to give TJ Oshie the dagger, and while Tyler Bozak picked up a fourth tally with 30 seconds to go, they couldn’t get any closer.

Why The Leafs Lost

Not taking advantage of a two-minute 5-on-3 to start the third period was pretty big, but I’m going to place this game almost squarely on this goal. Also the slow start and feeling a little too comfortable with the Caps, but especially this goal. It might be the worst sequence I’ve seen from a group (not just an individual) of Leafs in my adult life.

Blue Warrior

Morgan Rielly was not just Toronto’s top possession player, not just a point getter, and not just second on the team in ice time, but also had a blue collar blue warrior moment when he kept chugging after getting a skate to the face just before the second Wilson goal.

See You Next Time

Saturday. 7PM. Verizon Centre. Send Dart Guy.

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  • MartinPolak

    Everything is terrible tonight.

    Sens fans are going on about #sensareactuallygood because they are on the verge of taking down the bruins corsi juggernaut. And what is with mirtle who appropriated it with #washingtonisactuallygood during the game. This hashtag was good initially but it has ruined everything.

    I hate everything now, except connor brown and the leaf kids.

  • Capt.Jay

    The team needed a game like this. A good ol kick in the butt. I wish the score was more lopsided to proved the point a little further. My cousin asked me on Facebook why I haven’t been ranting and raving about my maple laughs, (this coming from a Canucks fan if you can belive it). My answer was simple. “Because they haven’t accomplished anything yet”. Everyone is acting as though it’s the finals a we’re two wins from winning the cup. The hype is fun but needs to settle down a bit, and I think the kids learned this lesson tonight.

    Go leafs go forever. Hope they can learn something from this.

  • Glen

    The score flattered the Leafs. They did not compete hard enough and for this game Anderson was no good, but he had lots of company. The Caps last goal was a comedy of errors. Oh well that was only one game and they did make it interesting in the third. Big picture still looks great for the future. GLG

  • The Russian Rocket

    The Leafs coming back from 4-1 helped that seed of doubt grow in the Capitals, I think. If the 3rd period gaffe didn’t gift them a goal, the capitals would not have won this game. Although, it was their best game yet.

  • jimithy

    That hit from behind by Wilson on Rielly at 15:49 in the 1st was the biggest cheap shot ever. No call. Rielly could have been seriously hurt. Kadri and Bozak took their usual night off. And it’s always at the worst of times. Pinball Marner seems out of his league. Zaitsev is still missing the net and poses no threat. The Gardiner Express is impressive now that he’s skating.

  • Stan Smith

    This was by far the worst game by the Leafs in this playoff. Having said that it is interesting that they could play as bad as they did and still be in the game. In fact if a couple of bounces went their way they could have won it, despite the fact they didn’t deserve to win. I think they can take heart that if they can play to their potential they can still win this series.

    I can’t believe Jeff picked Rielly as his Blue Warrior. He did not have a very good night at all. He turned the puck over on the second goal. Missed an easy assignment by completely ignoring Wilson on the third goal. Him and Carrick let Oshie sneak in behind them unmolested on the 5th goal. He was on the ice for 4 of the 5 Caps goals, literally on the 4th one, through no fault of his own.

    One last point is I think that Kadri’s line has to do a better job on containing Backstrom’s line if the Leafs want to win this series. They have been by far the most dangerous line on either team to this point in the series.

    • lukewarmwater

      Stan as usual superb and realistic assessment of Rielly’s performance tonight. He has been indeed playing some of his best hockey as a leaf in the playoffs, but truly struggled in game four as you so astutely pointed out.