Now that was a playoff game. If you saw it, you know what went on. The back and forth action, the emotional ups and downs.
There was way more to this one then I will try to describe, but here is some of what captured my thoughts as I took notes throughout the contest:
- With the Leafs taking the 2-0 lead, I thought the Leafs were back to doing a good job of making Chara move—and work. He was on for both Toronto goals. Leaning on the big defenseman and wearing him out was something I had talked about earlier in the series. (But then I looked up later in the game and Chara had three assists…he’s still a hard guy to shut down.)
- I liked Reimer’s play. A solid game for him, not that he did anything to discredit himself in Game 3. It was what a lot of us expected—a “bounce back”game for the Leafs—and for the young netminder. There were a lot of little saves that were a lot harder than they looked, and he played with skill and heart.
- I kept noting that if Grabbo ever gets one, the floodgates may not quite open, but it would set him free a bit, and help his play. I’ve loved his drive and determination in the series but a goal almost always helps a guy feel better about himself.
- Not that the Leafs were home and cooled out, but the Leafs were looking pretty strong with the 2-0 lead. But a quick goal to start the period brought the Bruins within one. Toronto still had the better of the play for a while but Boston then added two more and the tide had seemingly turned the other way.
- But just when we might have thought we were really in trouble, Gardiner gets the puck to Frattin, and MacArthur pounces on a loose puck and does what he can do—put it in the net. Tie game. 3-3.
There was so much in this one. The unfortunate injury to Mark Fraser, a hard-working player if there has ever been one, a guy giving every ounce of skill and determination that he is.
In some way, the MacArhur goal was really the trigger for some of the “real” action. Big saves in regulation time from Reimer (and yes, Rask). Gardiner all over the ice. The Leafs killing off Kadri’s four-minute penalty was huge and they deserve immense credit for that. Lupul had jump.
Playoff hockey? There was Gardiner standing up Jagr. O’Byrne finishing his check on Seguin behind the Leaf net with 8 minutes left in the game stood out for me as what playoff hockey, in a sense, is all about. Maybe the most skilled (certainly one of them) player on the other team head to head with O’Byrne, yet the Leaf defender not only makes the defensive stop but eliminates his more skilled opponent completely from the ensuring action. That really is hockey the way it has to be played at this time of year.
In overtime, we could see Kessel in Reimer’s crease to clear a loose puck (heck, he was back and all over Lucic if there was a rebound on the Krecji winner)…the Leafs were dishing out some big hits (notably Kadri) in overtime, so it was not as though these were two teams playing “not to lose”.
Frattin hit the post. It went back and forth and ultimately, the Leafs lost after a pinch, but I absolutely support Phaneuf’s play in the heat of the moment. As I said above, they weren’t playing not to lose. They wanted to win—badly. The boys in blue were trying to make things happen.
I rarely say this sort of thing, and the series sure isn’t over, but I was very proud of the way the Leafs played on Wednesday night. I’ve said here in the past that flaws are exposed in the playoffs, and they are. But any flaws the Leafs show they are working to make up for with relentless effort.
I’ve written that players and teams face a whole other kind of challenge in a series like this, and I believe the Leafs are responding awfully well. How many expected them to finish the regular-season where they did, or beat the Bruins on the road in the playoffs?
They could easily be tied or up in this series. That they aren’t is no discredit to them, their effort or the heart they have displayed in the last three games in this series.
Best Leaf player on the night? Different guys at different times. Reimer. Gardiner. Lupul. Kessel. I could throw a bunch of names into the hopper. I’m sure you have your own views. I thought Rask was the best Bruin by far, but that’s easy to say and not terribly discerning, perhaps, given that Krejci scored the hat trick.
I can’t really do justice to the game, but I invite you to give it a shot!
Though I enjoyed it a lot, I'm leaving the Leaf Matters podcast- thanks to everyone who supported me and the show!