The game had a playoff feel to it, although it was the middle of January. And, in the playoffs, one team often “just” beats the other team by one game – like a four-game to three-game series win to head to the next round. Last night the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-3 to the Boston Bruins on the Bruins’ home ice. It hurts, but it’s just one game of potentially more.
If it were Game 2 of the playoffs, the teams would watch the game film and then come back with a revised plan. This game had that same kind of feel to it. That the Maple Leafs lost in regulation, and that isn’t fun. Both teams literally battled hard, and one team was bound to head to the next game happy (and one unhappy).
Last night, the Bruins were happy; and, well, the Maple Leafs were on the other end. But, here’s what we know. The teams are close and the series comes down to mistakes. Last night the Maple Leafs made the most mistakes and lost the game with less than two minutes left. It could have been reversed.
But, on the positive side, the Maple Leafs can play with the Bruins. And, they can beat them. It just didn’t happen last night. That isn’t great, but it isn’t the end of the world.
Takeaway One: Not Matt Murray’s Best Game
Matt Murray was not great in this game, but he wasn’t horrible either. He was so-so. But so-so didn’t cut it.
He made three great saves on the night; but, of the four goals he allowed, he might have stopped two of them. What seemed obvious (in a good way) is that he’s calm in the net and focused. He should probably have stopped the David Pasternak goal with a better decision.
That said, if Murray had played a bit better, the Maple Leafs would have won. He’s done it before. His save on Brad Marchand was an absolute robbery. He has it in him.
Related: YOU CAN’T WIN THEM ALL: NOTES FROM THE MAPLE LEAFS’ ODD LOSS
Takeaway Two: Michael Bunting Just Makes Opponents Angry
Is it my imagination, or is Michael Bunting getting better and better at his two main jobs with the Maple Leafs? Those jobs are first getting the opposition riled up and second contributing to the offense. Last night Bunting did both almost perfectly.
Bunting scored a goal and had a good chance to get another; and, he spent lots of time making the Bruins want to beat on him. He’ll draw penalties during the playoffs and will score from the dirty places on the ice. Had he scored on his partial breakaway last night (he lost possession of the puck at the last second and didn’t get a shot on the net), his team would have probably won the game. It was that close.
Related: Was Lou Lamoriello as Good as Maple Leafs Fans Remember?
Takeaway Three: Conor Timmins Finally Has a Poor Game
Connor Timmins has been great for the Maple Leafs during the season, but he wasn’t great last night. He panicked and made some poor plays when he was under fire by the Bruins’ forechecking. His pairing with Morgan Rielly won’t happen again. And that’s just fine.
As noted, if this were a playoff series Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe would make a switch and plunk Jordie Benn into the lineup in Timmins’ place. Benn, who has tons of experience, would have been the better choice (I believe).
I’ve become a Timmins fan, so in his defense, he’s only played 55 NHL games. He’s a green, young defenseman. He was schooled by players on this season’s best NHL team. Now we see how he responds.
It’s also time to see how the Maple Leafs’ coaching staff responds, as well. I think it should be Benn with Rielly next time. That would allow Mark Giordano and Justin Holl to stay together and Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren to remain the other defensive pairing. It’s an easy fix and covers a bit of Timmins’ inexperience. He’s early in a career in a position that takes experience to learn. It isn’t time to dump on him for being young in that position with more to learn.
Related: 9 Things You Might Not Know About Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews
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January 15, 2023 at 8:12 am
Your takeaways re Murray & Bunting certainly are valid. Bunting is just a pest & that quality alone makes him an upgrade on Hyman. Murray gave up 2 softies, a typical Leaf goalie performance. They make saves that are jaw dropping then they give up goals that are WTF moments.Timmons struggled no more than any other Leaf defensemen. Unfortunately his gaff was the attempted cross ice pass at the blue line. That was as much about panicking as it was about trying to do to much. I would venture a guess, this was the biggest game of his short career. It was played in a hostile environment against the best team, at least statistically, in the league. My takeaway is about Taveres. The game on the line & he gives up the puck in the d zone on what should be an easy clear to make. Another gaff on the Bergeron goal not to mention his poor d-zone coverage against the Wings & perhaps the trade Dubas should be looking at is bringing in a 2nd line centre so they can move Taveres to the wing.
January 15, 2023 at 8:58 am
Good game and good analysis OP. I sure like the way Michael Bunting has played too. There are four things I’m watching for as we move towards spring – and with the goal considerably higher than the losers’ quest of winning a single playoff round. Can Kyle Dubas and Shanahan get this team over the hump at trade deadline? Can Sheldon Keefe transition from his constant tinkering to some better level of consistency in his bottom lines and D pairings by mid-February? Can Morgan Reilly work his way back to providing quality play? Can Auston Matthews, who’s having a good season, take his game from good to great. I look across the league from the Leafs’ perspective and no one scares me the way Colorado did last year and how Tampa did the two precious seasons. The Leafs have not had a better chance at a Stanley Cup since 1993.
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