I’m not sure this game was radically different from many Leaf encounters this season. I thought we saw the good and not-so-impressive sides of the Leafs, as a team—and individually.
One of the kids got to play a bit (D’Amigo) and contributed an assist. I thought Ranger looked confident. Franson struggled at times but almost made some fine plays and managed to contain big Chara in a key power play situation, which not everyone can do.
I didn’t notice Kadri much (maybe it was just me) but there he was, pouncing on a chance in overtime and making no mistake. As we often see, van Riemsdyk showed his deft touch and quick hands around the goal, giving the Leafs a 3-1 second period lead. Gunnarsson, pretty steady in recent times despite the recent Leaf slide, was generally solid again, but couldn’t clear the crease on the tying goal in the third period.
It was kind of that way all night—some good moments, then some uncertain play that created opportunities for the Bruins.
The Leafs kind of stopped skating in the third period, or the Bruins woke up when they should have been tiring after playing the night before. Whatever happened, Boston started crashing the Leaf net, or at least spending a lot of time hovering around Bernier (and then Reimer). In fact, it was that aggressive style of play that created the two goals that sent the game to overtime, because both the second and third Boston goals were screen shots that Bernier and Reimer couldn’t seem to locate.
Some Leaf followers will understandably think this is another late-season deception—as in, the Leafs winning when it’s too little and too late. But a quick look at the standings tells us that they are in fact within shouting distance of the Blue Jackets. And while Columbus has games in hand, they will likely have to win some games down the stretch, too.
It’s not a question of getting excited, but recognizing that there is still time, and a playoff spot is still a possibility. It looked like Bernier was struggling to get off the ice after his injury, and that’s not a good sign, given the Leafs have relied on him all season. But Winnipeg, Tampa, Florida and Ottawa is not an impossible schedule—especially not if the Leafs are feeling more confident than they did just a few days ago.