I’ll simply mention a couple of things, and if you’d like to chime in, please do so in the comments section:
- I liked the Leafs early on; thought they were able to play with the Bruins in terms of physicality. They showed good composure, I felt, through most of the opening period.
- I liked their special teams effort (1 for 2 on the power play in the first period, and they almost killed off both Boston penalties) but yes, the very late Boston marker to make it 2-1 changed everything.
- My guess is there will be some lineup changes, though it was not only the “lesser light” Leafs who struggled as this game went on, and Boston showed why they have been the better team in recent years. (It’s never the “stars” who will sit, and that’s because the coach knows he needs those guys, as they will likely be the ones he will depend on to produce offensively if the Leafs have any chance to show something as this series moves forward…)
- The hits on Grabovski (the flying elbow to the head that was not called in the first period; the crunching and very legal side hit in the third ) told us all we needed to know about the kind of series this will be from the Bruins' perspective. Once they got going, they hit, hit and hit some more. Legal, illegal, doesn’t matter. They intend to outmuscle us, and we will need more than Orr and MacLaren who show up ready to play physically.
- Fans will want to see Gardiner in Game 2, I’m sure, though I’m not certain that addresses the issue of not being able to handle the Bruins forecheck. Yes, he is a marvellous skater and can move the puck (and is calm under pressure). Those are all crucial traits. I just don’t know how he will respond to that kind of relentless checking, but hey, the Leafs “D” struggled as the night went on, so maybe he’ll get his shot.
I will say this: it’s one game. I could go back through my memory bank and come up with examples of Game 1 lopsided losses (this one felt worse than 4-1 by the end…) where the team on the losing end came back and won the series. (In fact, the Leafs did it in 1967, getting hammered by the Hawks and the Habs in both series that memorable spring before going on to win the Stanley Cup.)
However, I well recognize this is not 1967. And we are a young team that has really not been playing consistently good hockey for several weeks now.
Those who follow VLM know there is one thing I’ve said here many times, and it is hardly startling news. But it is true: playoffs are a time when any flaws you have are exposed.
In Game 1, a lot of Leaf flaws were exposed, and it wasn’t just one guy on the blueline who I know a lot of fans will want to cite as the major culprit. It went far beyond that and it would be narrow-thinking indeed to suggest the whole problem was one defenseman or our fourth-line wingers. (People can call for Gardiner, Frattin and Hamilton, and who knows, maybe that will help. But I'm not convinced they will be somehow turn the tide...)
Game 2 is a chance for the Leafs to gain back something—pride, respectability, confidence, all things that they will need if they hope to upset the Bruins in the first round.
It was a long night on the road for this old Leaf guy, so I’m calling it a night soon.
Have your say…