Yet again, the Toronto Maple Leafs did not start their playoff series well. In Round 1, they suffered a 7-3 beatdown at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Tuesday night, they lost Game 1 by a score of 4-2 in their playoff series against the Florida Panthers.
After the Panthers went up on the Maple Leafs by two goals, the Blue and White came roaring back on two quick goals by Matthew Knies and Michael Bunting. However, although the Maple Leafs seemed to have momentum for much of the game, they could not mount a third-period comeback. Instead, the Panthers were able to hold on for the victory.
The hero of the game for Florida was goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 34 saves. Second stars were Matthew Tkachuk (who had three assists) and Sam Bennett (who had a goal and an assist).
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Thursday. In this post, I’ll share three key takeaways from the game:
Takeaway One: The Maple Leafs Need to Capitalize on Their Chances
The Maple Leafs looked to be in control of their destiny as soon as the game started. They had great puck movement on two power plays but did not capitalize on those chances: Because the Panthers’ game can be a bit “wild,” the Maple Leafs should have a number of chances with the man advantage during this series.
In short, the Maple Leafs simply need to be more effective when they have their chances. They didn’t make the Panthers pay for their mistakes. The team’s specialty teams will too important in this series to let chances slip by.
Takeaway Two: The Maple Leafs Made Some Mistakes with Game Management
In any postseason game, management of the situation is crucial. In the second period, Jake McCabe took a big risk, that turned into a big mistake, that resulted in a breakaway goal for the Panthers. That goal sort of came out of nowhere, but it put the Maple Leafs behind. And, they simply didn’t catch up.
In my eyes, the Maple Leafs had most of the play and the offensive pressure. But that one mistake took them out of the game. It was a sort of flip-flop from series one where the Lightning had most of the play but the Maple Leafs took advantage of their chances.
It’s important that the Maple Leafs exercise patience without taking unnecessary risks. Had they continued to pressure the Panthers, I had the feeling they were going to score soon enough. The Panthers’ third goal changed all that.
Takeaway Three: The Maple Leafs Got Goalied by Sergei Bobrovsky
Panthers’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was a difference-maker. He was solid all night, making 34 saves and shutting the door to the Maple Leafs’ scoring. The Maple Leafs must find a way to get the puck past him if they want to win Game 2.
From what I saw on Tuesday night, I think the Maple Leafs have the formula. They just need to keep pressuring and funneling the puck toward Bobrovsky’s net. Bodies in front of him would make a huge difference.
The Bottom Line for Thursday Night’s Game 2
If the Leafs want to bounce back and win Game 2, they will need to make the kind of adjustments that will clean up their game. They need to be more patient and trust that their offensive pressure will eventually get the scoring job done. Blocking Bobrovsky’s line of sight will be key to getting a puck by him.
Overall, the Maple Leafs seem able to do what needs to be done – they just need to do it.
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