Last night was ugly.
So we asked our staff:
What can we do to fix it, and can the Leafs actually win this series?
The PK was poor last night and that needs addressing quickly. I did not enjoy the performance of the fourth line either. With Kadri’s likely suspension I would put Plekanec on the third line and put Moore in the centre on the fourth with Johnsson on the wing. Komarov would be scratched which is fine as he was poor last night.
Final point is that I know Babs likes his four lines but sometimes he was giving the fourth line defensive draws at important moments. That just seemed silly to me.
The key is not to panic. I wouldn’t even consider changing the lineup at this point in the series. Babcock needs to fix a lot of usage issues, but otherwise I think it’s important to bounce back emotionally and see what that gets you before pulling the plug on what just yesterday you thought was your best group of 18 skaters.
I want to shout cliches about playing their own game, but honestly I don’t think they ever really embrace playing their own game. The Leafs are deep with fast, skilled players who could overrun and wear down the Bruins defense, and instead we’re going to spend the next couple of days debating whether Komarov should lick Marchand back. Clearly the Leafs defense in it’s current state is crappy. At least on one side. Maybe focus on the offense which has the potential to be uncrappy, even if it was crappy on Thursday night.
With the upcoming Kadri suspension, I guess the lineup change will be automatic and lines will have to be shuffled. Johnsson will most likely be coming in (god, I hope), and that will create a nice little offensive boost. But other than that, I really don’t think there needs to be much of a gameplan change, there were key scoring chances that just didn’t go our way and could have changed the dynamic of that game. We’ll be fine.
The one thing the Leafs need to do differently is for Babcock to realize that his toys need to stop being his toys. Whether it was the Hainsey/Polak special on the penalty kill, Komarov on the power play, Hainsey on the top pair, or matching the fourth line against the Bergeron line, everything that Babcock thought worked during the regular season was exposed by Boston in round 1. He seemed to notice some of these issues (he started playing Dermott on the PK after the first two PP goals for Boston), but it’d be great if he could make a couple shake ups to the line up, such as bringing in Johnsson in place of Leo, and at this point, I’d consider rotating Hainsey and Carrick, because Hainsey has started to show some fatigue in these last few months (would’ve been great if the Leafs had some late season meaningless games as an opportunity to scratch him in, wouldn’t it), so giving him some rest might help his overall performance. If Kadri gets suspended, I’d put Nylander at C and put Johnsson in his place with Matthews.
Some might say I’m overreacting to one playoff loss, but this has been a trend for almost the entire year, and Boston picked up on it and exposed it, so it needs to change, otherwise Babcock will be coaching the Leafs to a quick series.