The first two games were nothing short of extraordinary for the Bruins. So, with the series shifting to Toronto, they knew they would face a desperate Maple Leafs bunch hoping to avoid a 3-0 first round deficit.
The desperate Leafs came to play. The Bruins, meanwhile, couldn’t get the bounces. And now, we have ourselves a series after Toronto’s 4-2 win in Game 3 Monday night.
Here is what we learned as the Bruins and Leafs will have two days off before meeting again Thursday night in a pivotal Game 4 at the Air Canada Centre.
Playing from behind not ideal in the playoffs
James van Riemsdyk puts the Leafs up 1-0 in the first period of Game 3 with a powerplay goal pic.twitter.com/5iYCD4qou8
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 16, 2018
Scoring the first goal was an issue for the Bruins during the regular season. That problem didn’t present itself in Games 1 and 2 as the Bruins scored first en route to outscoring the Leafs 12-4 in Boston.
Overcoming an early deficit wasn’t an issue for the Bruins in the regular season. Many of their impressive come from behind wins came after allowing the game’s first goal. In fact, their 21-18-6 mark proved they could handle in-game adversity.
An errant call on Riley Nash led to the Leafs scoring first as James van Riemsdyk gave his team a 1-0 lead just five seconds after Nash was called for shooting the puck over the glass, even though the puck hit the glass before going out of play.
The Bruins responded twice after van Riemsdyk’s tally and Patrick Marleau’s first of two tallies with counter markers from Adam McQuaid and Zdeno Chara. But they were chasing the game all night while the Leafs found a rhythm in the attacking end and layered up in the defensive and neutral zones.
“It was a lot tougher than the previous two,” goaltender Tuukka Rask said to the media postgame. “We knew they were going to come hard, and they did, but we responded pretty well. We hung in there, you know, but it was frustrating.”
“It was a game — and a style of game — that I expected and [that] we expected,” Patrice Bergeron told reporters following a minus-2 outing in Game 3. “They got the win and we got to be better next game; adjust and adapt, and be better.”
Having a better start is one area where the Bruins need to be better at in Game 4. Otherwise, they may have a best-of-three on their hands when they return to Boston.
Frederik Andersen bounces back
Frederik Andersen are you kidding me pic.twitter.com/epcDpGYHHR
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 17, 2018
As Andersen goes, so do the Leafs.
Sure, Andersen had some puck luck on his side, especially on the Bruins lone power play where David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand hit the post early in the third period, and for sure he’d like to have the two goals he allowed back from McQuaid and Chara. But, much like he’s done throughout his career, the Leafs workhorse was back to haunting the Black and Gold en route to a solid 40-save night.
The Bruins had their chances, but couldn’t finish. Andersen’s stellar and timely saves, especially on Pastrnak to keep the two-goal lead late in the third period, were a difference maker.
Not bad for a goalie that had a 6.67 goals against average and a sub-.900 save percentage in the first two games.
“Freddie has been one of our best players all year. We need him to be good,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said about Andersen during his postgame press conference with the Toronto media. “He’s got to feel like he’s back. We talked about Auston [Matthews] and Freddie is one of those guys that has to feel like he’s back. Things didn’t go well for him in the first couple of games, and we need him to be good.”
Andersen was quite good, as was another player that Babcock mentioned in the aforementioned comment.
Matthews line finally gets the best of the Bergeron line
Auston Matthews' first playoff goal of the season has the Leafs up 3-2 after 2. pic.twitter.com/xUNK8zypHB
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 17, 2018
One — and perhaps the most important — caveat of home ice is having the last change. The Leafs had that benefit in Game 3 and will also have that Thursday night in Game 4.
Instead of facing the Bergeron line, Mike Babcock used his top trio of Zach Hyman, Matthews and William Nylander to exploit other matchups against the Black and Gold. They still found themselves up against the Bruins top trio of Bergeron, Pastrnak and Brad Marchand — who matched up against Mitch Marner, Tomas Plekanec and Marleau for most of the contest — but found a way to get the best of them when it mattered most.
Late in the second period of a 2-2 game, the Matthews trio had a rare, good shift of quality chances and extended zone time against the Bergeron line. Finally, moments after Hyman’s shot went wide, Matthews found space in the faceoff circle and beat Rask short side for his first of the playoffs and the go-ahead goal with 5:13 left in the middle stanza.
“There’s always something you can do better when they score,” Bergeron said about the shift that led to Matthews’ go-ahead goal. “We’ll have to look at it and be better.”
Bergeron and company will look at the film and hope to be better come Thursday.