What we learned from the Maple Leafs’ Game 1 loss: 5 takeaways

BOSTON — As the ghosts of past playoff failures against the Boston Bruins linger over the Toronto Maple Leafs, almost everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in Game 1.

The absence of William Nylander proved costly, as the Leafs got no offense from the top of their lineup, took costly penalties and didn’t get the kind of steady goaltending they needed. needed in a 5-1 loss.

With the exception of a third-period David Kampf goal that came only after the game was almost decided, there weren’t many positives for the Leafs. Although the Leafs outshot the Bruins 36-24, the home team outshot the visitors consistently enough to make life difficult for them.

“There are just too many mistakes,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Sanctions. Carefree with our stick. This kind of thing is not enough.

Under Keefe, the Leafs have now lost five of the first six games of the playoffs.

The Leafs never found much rhythm, enough that it seemed like lineup changes might come in Game 2.

Leafs stars not producing

Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares showcased the kind of offensive firepower the Bruins don’t necessarily have at the top of their lineup. Coming into the series, this was thought to be one of the Leafs’ advantages over the Bruins.

Matthews and Tavares stood out for their efforts to reach Jeremy Swayman and the Bruins goal. Yet while those three totaled 13 shots on goal and 23 shot attempts, they had nothing to show on the scoresheet.

Part of the problem was that the Leafs power play was 0 for 3 that night.

“Not good. Really slow. Disconnected,” Keefe said of the power play.

Not having Nylander in the lineup hurts this Leafs team, in fairness to them and their offensive output. The way they are built, the Leafs need to get production from the top of the lineup. If one of the few pieces of the puzzle is missing and the other pieces don’t create offense? The results speak for themselves.


Why William Nylander could be out of Game 1 for the Maple Leafs

TD Garden, a house of horrors

The visitors wanted to engage physically and set the tone of the match. The first few shifts saw several Leafs throw up notable hits. It’s a promising start for a team that has been accused in the past of not playing physically enough.

But midway through the first period, Pat Maroon demolished Timothy Liljegren with a hit that knocked the Leafs defenseman into the Bruins bench and you were reminded, oh yeah, it’s still the Bruins who can handle all that which is thrown at them physically.

The TD Garden crowd continued to be at their best as the game progressed. “UNITED STATES!” songs ? Check. Hit Ilya Samsonov relentlessly after conceding the third and fourth goals? Check.

“We’ve been here a lot,” Marner said of the atmosphere. “You just went to… I don’t know if it’s a battle or anything, but we know it’s still going to be a noisy building in here. It’s the same thing when they come to our building.

Starting on the road hasn’t toughened the Leafs in this series, but it has hampered them.

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Bruins puck pressure is a problem

Aside from the physicality and how intimidating the TD Garden faithful were for the Leafs, the most notable takeaway from the first period? The Bruins’ ability to pressure the puck and create turnovers is second to none. This allowed the Bruins to hit multiple posts in the first period alone. Even though they had it far too easy to close on Samsonov, the Leafs didn’t enter the first intermission with many, if any, Grade A chances.

“Turnovers through the neutral zone,” Marner said of the challenges the Leafs faced. “Obviously we give them a really good look at the start of the game there and they take advantage of it. It’s obviously a very capable team there. And if you give them a lot of power plays, they’ll really start to feel good about their game. So that’s something we have to limit as well.

That puck pressure, combined with unfortunate reads from Joel Edmundson and Ryan Reaves, led to a strange man rush and a quick first goal from Bruins center John Beecher.

In the second period, those same intense efforts on the puck allowed the Bruins to outplay the Leafs in their own zone. Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo took advantage of an equally powerful shot against a tired Leafs group.

Bad penalties cost Leafs dearly

Penalties from Auston Matthews and Max Domi in the second period were completely unnecessary and the Bruins took advantage. These two penalties were not only stupid to take, they limited the time the Leafs could have their best offensive players on the ice and allowed the Bruins to put the game to bed with two power play goals from Jake DeBrusk .

It’s worth remembering that the Leafs finished the regular season with a bottom-10 ranking in the league’s penalty kill (76.9 percent).

Domi, in particular, walked a fine line before the faceoff. He was trying to engage Brad Marchand all game and it was to be expected that the refs would be watching him. If the Leafs don’t tighten things up, the Bruins’ power play could end up being the difference in this series.

After the game, Keefe called Domi’s slashing penalty in the second period “undisciplined.”

“I understand what he’s trying to do, but he’s crossed the line. You can’t do that,” Keefe said.

Keefe also called the team’s two high penalties “negligence.”

“This time of year you have to be connected. You can’t allow your bat to go up like that,” Keefe said.

Ilya Samsonov in the hot seat

A pressing question in this series: Would Samsonov be able to hold down the fort in goal for the Leafs after a dramatic up-and-down season?

We didn’t get a full and complete answer to the question in the first game, but we came close. Samsonov allowed four goals on 23 shots while his counterpart, Jeremy Swayman, allowed only one goal on 36 shots. It could be argued that – even if the Leafs killed a penalty – Samsonov needed to make a save on the Bruins’ third goal.

“I believe in myself. I believe in my skills. I believe in everyone in this locker room. That’s why I have confidence,” Samsonov said.

Samsonov has been at his best this season when he has looked and played calm and composed. In the first match, Samsonov was repeatedly caught far from his goal.

Does Keefe turn to Samsonov again in Game 2? It seems likely, but the leash certainly got shorter after the first game.

(Photo: Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

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