Series now in jeopardy – Maple Leafs fall to Bruins in Game 3


Leaf fans may look back at this game and say, “It’s the one that got away.” All season long, Toronto has failed to impress me by not playing a full sixty-minute game. Last night, much to my surprise, they played a hard sixty full minutes and probably deserved better than the 4 to 2 defeat in front of the sold-out crowd at the Scotiabank Arena. They just didn’t capitalize!

Boston’s Goalie Tandem

Physicality is not the problem; the Leafs are just as physical, if not more physical, than the Bruins, a surprise to be sure! Toronto is also outskating the Bruins. So why, then, are they down? Look no further than Boston’s goaltending. Boston has two of the top goalies in the NHL, and both of its wins came from Jeremy Swayman, who has only given up three goals in two games. One of those was a double deflection last night. Unless Toronto’s stars figure him out, the tee times are ready to be booked.

What is also concerning is that Boston’s other goalie, Linus Ullmark, who took the tough loss in Game 2, could be back in the net for Game 4, and good goalies find a way to bounce back from losses. If Ullmark plays and wins, what else is there to say? Boston could also stay with the red-hot Swayman again. I’m not taking anything away from Samsonov here; the Leaf’s netminder is the only reason it’s not three games to nothing.

Special Teams

The powerplay is a real issue; imagine that a top offense in the NHL has 1 powerplay goal in 11 opportunities. There was a lot of praise for Auston Matthews, who scored 50 even-strength goals in the regular season and showed his “grit” in tough five-on-five hockey. The problem is he’s not going to score many against a stingy Boston defense; he has to start showing up on the man advantage when, in theory, it’s much easier to score goals. The best Leaf has to be the best, and he hasn’t been. Boston has capitalized on their opportunities, especially in Games 1 and 3, scoring four powerplay goals in those two games; in the game they lost, zero powerplay goals were scored. The connection here is apparent.

Nylander Injury / Coaching

Another possible difference in this series is William Nylander. This is where I become highly critical of a coach who has no business being on the Leafs bench. It would be a blessing for this Leaf team if they lost round one because Sheldon Keefe would be the first one out the door. But what does that have to do with William Nylander? It’s been three games, and the Leaf’s most clutch player still hasn’t seen the ice in this series, with no word coming from the top on when he will be returning. It is possible and rumored to be, that William Nylander was injured in the season finale against Tampa. A game in which he had no business playing, as it was a glorified practice. The key to being a coach is controlling your players; the players all wanted to play that final game against Tampa Bay for two reasons: Matthews getting 70 goals and Nylander getting 100 points. Both these attempts failed, and now one of the top leaf forwards is out. Keefe should have sat them, period! Could this be why fans are only getting silence from the top? It would look dumb to lose a player of that caliber in a meaningless game, which was a blowout loss. Why was Nylander out there late in the third period, as he got an assist on the Leaf’s final goal of the season? If Nylander were healthy in all three games, the Leafs would undoubtedly be up in this series.

Four possible games are left now, and the Leafs have to win three. There is still time to turn this around, as this Bruins team is the most beatable one the Leafs have faced recently, dating back to the playoff losses of ‘13, ‘18, and ‘19. It does feel like a seven-game series still, but if the Leafs have to figure out Swayman and score on the powerplay, It is also pretty apparent they need William Nylander, as Matthews, Marner, and Tavares can’t seem to get the job done.

It should be noted that two of the three times Boston eliminated Toronto in the last decade, they made the Stanley Cup finals. We were seeing two of the best then and two of the best now. I’d argue it’s been the most entertaining playoff series yet of these 2024 NHL playoffs, but that means little if the Leafs lose AGAIN!

Adam Care/MS


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