When the second game of their NHL playoff series started, the Toronto Maple Leafs came out hard against the Boston Bruins.
Unlike the first game, on Saturday night the Leafs showed their trademark speed, getting to pucks first and keeping the Bruins pinned in their own zone. They were buzzing around goaltender Tuukka Rask, fore-checking hard.
But it was all a mirage. One that was once again bashed into reality by the Bruins line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak
Five minutes into the game, the Bruins put a halt to the Leafs’ little uprising when Kevin Miller drilled James van Riemsdyk into the boards on a Leaf dump-in. The Bruins moved the game to the Leafs’ end and within 10 minutes chased goaltender Frederik Andersen from the game, scored four goals, two on the power play, and then clicked into cruise control for a 7-3 win.
The Leafs slunk home down 2-0 to the Bruins in the first-round series with not even the faintest sign of hope they can turn things around. The statistics may be kind to the Leafs – they outshot the Bruins 33-28 - but those numbers were put up after the game had been decided.
Here’s some statistics that tell the story: Bergeron’s line, 20 points in two games playing mostly against Auston Matthews’ line. Matthews’ line, zero points. Andersen, five shots, three goals-against in Game 2.
Matthews exposed his shock when asked if he ever thought a line he was playing against could outscore him and his linemates (it was a varying cast in Game 2) 20-0.
“S--- happens, I guess,” he said. “It’s hockey. We’ve got to rebound in Game 3.”
It was as if the Bruins came out like a pro wrestler, stood there for five minutes and said, “Okay boys, take your best shots.” Then, having let the Leaf youngsters run around for a bit, the Bruins stepped in, grabbed the Leafs and started slapping them around like they did in the first game.
Once again, the Leafs had no idea how to deal with the Bergeron line. In the first game, that line combined for six points. In the second, they ran up six points in the first period and kept on going, finishing with 14. Pastrnak finished with three goals and six points. He and Bergeron were on the ice for all seven Bruins goals. Marchand was present for six.
After the Leafs’ little first-period run-around, Pastrnak scored at 5:26, Jake DeBrusk scored a power-play goal at 9:46, then it was back to a five-on-five goal with Miller at 12:13. Then the Bruins power play clicked again with Rick Nash scoring.
“Obviously, they’re dominating us,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said of the Bruins’ big line. “I thought we got off to a pretty good start, and the puck still went in the net. Give them credit, they’re playing real well, that line, they’ve been good on the power play, good at five-on-five, everything they throw at the net’s going in.
“We’ve got to go home and get regrouped. So that’s our first priority. We’ve got to get out of here. I mean, it obviously hasn’t gone the way we want it — we’ve given up 12 goals in two games. So we’ve got to go get some home-cooking tomorrow, and come back and pull like we can, because we’re a way better team than what we showed.”
The first Leafs penalty showed just how shambolic they are in this series. For the second time in as many games they took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. Yes, even Babcock was having another one of those nights for the second game in a row.
Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen excited the fans for a minute when he managed a shorthanded breakaway. But he hit the post and the Bruins took the puck right down the ice for DeBrusk’s goal.
When Nash scored, it marked 11 power-play goals against for the Leafs in their last seven games. It’s hard to remember the Leafs’ penalty killers were once among the better units in the NHL this season. When the Leafs finally managed to kill off a Bruins penalty early in the second period it marked the first time in this series they managed the feat.
At the same time, the Leafs power play, which was second in the NHL in the regular season, is one-for-seven in two games.
“I think we can be better on the penalty kill but also our power play has to step up and be better as well,” Matthews said. “We’ve got to be more disciplined. They’re getting way too many power plays and we’re not getting enough power plays. So we have to do a better job of that. There’s a lot of things that have got to be better.”
Nazem Kadri may have been absent, serving the first game of his three-game suspension for a stupid hit on the Bruins’ Tommy Wingels, but he had lots of figurative company. Matthews and William Nylander were invisible for a second time. Tyler Bozak checked in with a second-period goal, as did linemate James van Riemsdyk in the third but otherwise they were as absent as they will be come July 1 when they both become free agents.
The Leafs defence? It was porous to the point of embarrassment and beyond. Poor old Nikita Zaitsev was on the ice for all four first-period Boston goals, and even deflected the one that chased Andersen but he was not the sole culprit. The rest of them were almost as bad.
Andersen’s three goals-against on five shots were not anything like his regular-season heroics, although he could not be blamed on any of them. It did not help when backup Curtis McElhinney let in the first shot, making it four goals on six shots in the first period.
“That was pretty much it,” Babcock said of those goals. “I actually thought we were really jumping. But the bottom line is you’ve got to keep it out of your net.”
Babcock put his lines and defence pairs in the blender for the second period, a desperation move to look for something resembling a spark. It did produced a goal from Mitch Marner at 1:22 but Bruins centre David Krejci scored a couple minutes later and it was back to the usual business. Pastrnak scored two more goals in the third period to squelch some signs of life from the Leafs and earn the hat trick.
The Leafs lost Komarov for the night when he tried to hit Miller early in the second period and got the worst of it. Komarov skated slowly off the ice, went to the dressing room and then tried a brief comeback before retiring for the evening.
But like the loss of Kadri and his 32 goals from the regular season, the Bruins are so dominant in this series it didn’t really matter if Komarov was there or not.