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What we can expect from the Leafs in Game 5 in Boston?

It’s funny:  while the Leafs have struggled at times in this series, they have also, at other times, showed not only a lot of determination but skill and guts.  Blocked shots, some great passing, big hits, huge saves.  Sure, they have made enough “mistakes” to fill a small book, but they’re not exactly playing the Little Sisters of the Poor, so some perspective is probably required.

I’m not going to go through a laundry list of guys I think have played well or not quite as well as I would have liked so far.  Suffice to say I believe most of the Leaf players have shown up, and acquitted themselves pretty darn well—especially given that this group is playing in the playoffs together for the first time, and a number of them are actually playing for the first time ever in NHL playoff action.

That Carlyle has spent time trying to mix and match and move guys around throughout the series—and the resultant lack of familiarity—may be part of the reason why we are seeing a lack of cohesion at times.  But I like the effort by and large, and am happy seeing them play meaningful games at a time of year when hockey matters most.

Reimer has been all right by me (and yes, we should keep him and build around him).  We have obviously given up the puck too much at times, and while defense is a five-man unit, yes, we are probably a little undermanned on the back end.  (I’m guessing Liles draws into the lineup given Fraser’s injury, but we’ll see.) Could we win with this defense corps?  I don’t know, but clearly the future is with youngsters like Gardiner and Rielly and maybe some others on the way.

Up front, it’s hard to deny that Kessel is flying around the ice, or that Grabovski is giving all that he has. Others are making obvious contributions, too.  We can debate Carlyle’s roster choices, sure.  But c’mon, while we like to say the Leafs have “depth”, I’m not sure we can fairly say he has that much flexibility with his forward lines.  We can debate Orr/MacLaren until we’re blue in the face, but I can pretty much guarantee that, over time, some fans would find fault with just about anyone we put out there in their place.  There’s usually a reason guys aren’t playing, and the coaches see the players more than anyone. Because someone scores a goal (e.g. MacArthur) does not, in my view at least, mean he should have been in the lineup from the get go.  He’s a guy that can go long stretches and not do much, so I find it difficult to suggest Carlyle has somehow mismanaged his roster, though some obviously feel that way.

The series could be 2-2 right now, no question.  Do the Leafs deserve a better fate?  An argument could certainly be made that they do.  And it would surely be a different “feeling” for the team heading into Boston Friday night if they were now in a two-out-of three series, as opposed to knowing they must win three games in a row.

So what can we expect in Game 5?

Often the expectation is the home team should wrap things up, for all the usual reasons.  They’re at home, have the momentum, are motivated to get some rest for the next round, etc.. And in the case of the Bruins, they have “been there” before, and have learned how to close out a series.

But just like we expected a better, less mistake-prone Game from Toronto on Wednesday than what the Leafs delivered in Game 3, I sense Toronto will be ready to play a solid road game Friday night. 

The regular factors come to mind:  they are facing elimination and proud athletes, generally speaking, give everything they have when looking at a long summer ahead.  The very idea of watching the other team celebrate and shake your hand on your way out the door provides ample ammunition, I would think.

Reimer won’t give up, we know that.  None of these guys will.  What has, say, Jake Gardiner got to lose at this point?  He spent long stretches watching from the press box.  He’s happy to be playing hockey.  He didn’t seem too terribly worried about making a costly mistake in Game 4, so I’m guessing he has decided (or been allowed) to do what he does best: skate with the puck, make plays and be a threat in the offensive zone.  (If he has the puck, the other team doesn’t…)  I expect Kadri to have his best game of the series.  Grabovski is surely due to catch a break and score a goal. For a good chunk of the series, van Riemsdyk has been one of the most important Leafs.  He tends to score in bunches, so Friday night would be timely, eh?

The Leafs deserve credit for some moments of solid play on Wednesday.  Killing off the Kadri four-minute penalty in the third period with the game on the line, for me, was a good sign for the future.  If we can continue to be a team that can kill penalties well, including in the playoffs, that bodes well.

Are there a few (maybe less than that) who maybe have even more to give?  I don't know if I can fairly say that.  I have some thoughts about that, but for now, I’ll keep them to myself.  Some individuals are playing hurt, and some are maybe doing all they can against a very tough opponent.

The Bruins, I will say again, are beatable.  They have been this entire series and were certainly there for the taking in Games 3 and 4.

Can the Leafs do it three more times?  Can they do it Friday night?

Many of you know I’m not a predictions guys, but my gut, for what little that means, tells me we may well have Game 6 back in Toronto on Sunday night.

What say you?


  1. I think the odds are somewhat favourable that we'll see a Game 6, but I wouldn't actually bet money on it. as you point out, there've been good and not-so-good aspects to our games so far. Our inconsistency is just about our only consistency!
    I like the way Frattin and Gardiner have ramped up a bit each time they play, and I think we all pretty much agree it only bodes well for the future. But under the playoff spotlight, some glaring weaknesses have become more apparent, and I think they'll ultimately impede any real hope we have of winning three in a row from a far more efficient Bruins team. They may be beatable, but we seem to be having a heck of time beating them!
    BTW - I laughed out loud at your "Little Sisters of the Poor" line. Well said!

  2. I mentioned that the Leafs seems to be working through a checklist of playoff experiences (1st game, 1st game at home, now, 1st overtime game). In each instance, we lost... however, the guys seem to be learning from each experience. They seem to be 'on fire' to grow through this adversity.

    The look in Lupul's eyes during an interview (along with his steely resolve that this series is NOT over) and listening to each of the players who have spoken, I get the definite impression it is premature to start talkind about next year.

    There have been a number of experiences to overcome and the commit-level seems to be rising... almost as if this had to go 7 games in order for the guys to grow best in this first playoff foray.

    I think Friday will be a continuation of the kind of play we saw in Overtime... and I wouldn't want to be the Bruins! There is a very real chance that it will be hard for Boston to match the intensity that I anticipate seeing tomorrow. Then, a chance to thank the fans with a similar effort in Toronto.

    I have a very real sense of progression and growth that is infusing itself into this series as it moves 'exponentially' to its resolution.

    I know it could be over on Friday, but I'm confident that many Leafs have 'caught the passion' and will give their all to bring the game back home (one game at a time). But, like Randy preaches, the next one is all that matters right now!

    I believe we will have a better, 'battle-hardened' team as a result of this experience... they're already rising to the occasion, in my estimation.

    1. You're right, InTimeFor62, the Leafs, I sense, want to prolong this series. That's not to say the Bruins won't be a formidable opponent at home, but the Leafs will at least know what they are in for. Should be another great game.

  3. Agreed, Gerund O'. I keep saying the Bruins are beatable, but we've only done it once so far!

  4. The Leafs have got better each and every game they have played so far. This series could easily be 2-2 and in fact I felt that if the Leafs had won game 4 they had a really good chance at winning the series.

    I am actually thinking that after the heartbreak on Wednesday and facing a Boston crowd that is going to be crazy, the Leafs are going to be in tough to win. They aren't going to quit but I am afraid that another one of those hard playoff lessons is in the offering. This is what playoffs are all about picking yourself up off the canvas and going at it again. However, with the youth and playoff inexperience it is going to be very hard. I'm not quite sure the Bruins are as beatable as people keep saying. In every game even when the Leafs are pressing you never sense any panic from them. They are a pretty unflappable group.

    I am very proud of this team and the way they have performed this playoff. Everything they have learned is going to help them next year and I really think that this is a team that is over the hump now and ready to become one of the better teams in the league. Next year is going to be fun.

    1. I echo your well-stated sentiments about the Leafs, Willbur. (And I'm one of those who keep saying the Bruins can be beat!) The future looks better, yes.

  5. Aren't you glad that the Leafs didn't spend a fortune on Luongo? He didn't do the Canucks much good!

    1. You may recall Mike that I discussed the "Luongo to the Leafs" thing a lot weeks and months ago. I was never supportive of the Leafs making that move. He played well for the Canucks in the playoffs this spring, but the Canucks seem to have other issues. I'm happy, as I've said here before, to build with Reimer....thanks Mike.

  6. I basically expected to go out against Boston 1-4. I also feared the Bruins would make us look pretty bad. The first case might well still stand, but the latter is not quite as likely. I can't really fault the effort after the first game of the series, even though the results have not gone our way. Most often it's come down to the Bruins being better at making their own luck, which is not surprising considering their recent playoff pedigree, which is something we just don't have.

    But really, while glaring weaknesses might be the only thing Boston really lacks, they can be beaten, game by game, shift by shift, as long as the Leafs can raise the bar. Being just a bit more clinical up front, and a bit more cynical down low could get it done. Also, just take Ryan O'Byrne off the roster. Gardiner might be a defensive hazard, but he counters it by being an offensive threat. O'Byrne is a stay-at-home d-man who seems to lack defensive awareness.

    Overall, it's been enjoyable to be in the post-season as such, results notwithstanding, but win the next one to bring the series back to Toronto, please. A tough ask, I realize, but it's been done before. So why not the Leafs?

    1. In these situations, CGLN, it's the old one-shift-at-a-time approach. Win the shift, win the period, win one game. Then on to the next.

      You're right about the series: the results have not been there, but we've seen some good hockey from the Leafs at times, in a playoff situation. That's important. Thanks for chiming in!