The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered a 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in a playoff-type game on Thursday night. Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves for Toronto, who took a 1-0 lead into the third period on Sam Lafferty’s second-period goal.
Despite the loss, Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe praised his team’s effort, saying they played incredibly hard. The game was tight throughout, with the teams battling hard.
Takeaway One: Both Teams Played Tight, Playoff-Style Hockey
Toronto opened the scoring with just under 10 minutes left in the second period when Zach Aston-Reese fired a shot from just inside the blue line, which was deflected in by Lafferty for his 12th goal of the season. Boston responded with just over eight minutes left in regulation when Charlie Coyle scored his 14th goal of the campaign, tying the game at 1-1.
The game remained tied through the end of regulation, but Boston eventually won in overtime thanks to a goal by David Pastrnak just as a Bruins’ power play ended. Despite the loss, the Maple Leafs’ strong performance against a tough opponent on the road was encouraging.
Both teams looked to be in playoff mode.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Keefe, ROR, ZAR, Woll & Defense
Takeaway Two: Ilya Samsonov Was Strong in the Maple Leafs Net
Ilya Samsonov started Thursday’s game against the Bruins. It was his third game against the Bruins this season, and he had allowed six goals in the previous two games. However, last night he was incredible.
Although he was scored on in the overtime session, that score came at the tail end of a Bruins power play. The Bruins made a strong play to push in the winning goal.
Still, in his defense, Samsonov was in a good position all game long and looked strong. By the time the game had ended, Samsonov made 31 saves. The long and short of it is that he was excellent in this game; and, despite the loss, he stood tall against the best team in the NHL.
Takeaway Three: The Maple Leafs Fourth Line Was Their Best in the Game
The Maple Leafs’ fourth line of David Kampf, Zach Aston-Reese, and Sam Lafferty was the standout line of the game. They’ve been playing consistently well for several games now. The group plays hard, and fast. They are also strong defensively.
For the past few games, they’ve even managed to provide secondary scoring. Last night’s game was tight defensively, but the Maple Leafs fourth line was able to generate the only offense the team got.
The fourth line is building an identity. They pressure the puck, play smart hockey, and have built great chemistry. They advance the puck quickly, put pressure on opponents, get the puck to the net, and are rewarded for it in their own blue-collar way. Because they are great defenders, they’ve earned coach Sheldon Keefe’s confidence that they will either do good things or prevent bad from happening when they’re on the ice.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Ryan O’Reilly Ready to Return Tonight vs Bruins
Takeaway Three: Ryan O’Reilly Is One Incredibly Professional Hockey Player
Thursday night was Ryan O’Reilly’s first game back after being out with his broken finger and surgery. In his first game, he played 17:03 minutes. He took eight faceoffs, winning five of them. Although he didn’t make it onto the scoreboard, hardly anyone else did either. It just wasn’t that kind of a game.
That said, O’Reilly was engaged and battled throughout the game. He played professional, smart hockey. Even better, he made it through the entire game without aggravating his injury. Even after his time off, his timing looked second nature.
O’Reilly is simply an intelligent player. He moves himself and the puck in good spots on the ice. It was good to have him back. As coach Keefe noted, O’Reilly is the most vocal player on the bench. He talks non-stop. His leadership and communication skills make a big difference on the Maple Leafs’ roster.
Related: Six Key Considerations as the Maple Leafs Head to Playoffs
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