Maple Leafs Thoughts – May 12th, 2013

(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Game Six Tonight

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins faceoff in game six of their series with the Bruins up 3-2. Lineup changes are not expected, but the Bruins may sit out a couple defenders due to injuries.

The Leafs defeated the Bruins on Friday to force another game. In game five, the Leafs played forty minutes. The other twenty minutes was the third period, where the Bruins grossly dominated them in their own zone. As a result, they barely squeaked away with a 2-1 victory.

If the Leafs are to win tonight and force a game seven tomorrow, they must repeat their performance from the first forty minutes of game five and spread it throughout the entire game. We have seen in the past that no matter how well you play, a few glaring mistakes can cost you the game. That was evident in the two games in Toronto this series, where the Leafs played a fair game but a few costly mistakes turned the table.

Forcing a game six has already exceeded most people’s expectations of the Leafs in the playoffs. There is nothing to lose.


Turnovers Turnovers Turnovers

I’ve said it quite a few tines during the games, “I’ve never seen a team have THIS much trouble clearing their own zone.” It is unfathomable. Simple plays off the boards or quick relay passes are not understood by the Leafs. Players that are usually terrible with the puck decide to hold on a little too long, and that eventually leads to a turnover. Ryan O’byrne and Mark Fraser are players not used to life with the puck, yet they refuse to move it off to a teammate or clear the zone immediately. How about Cody Franson, who camps behind his own net allowing the Bruins to comfortably set up their defensive position? The only player who seems to have an idea on how to move/clear the puck is Jake Gardiner, and he should be credited for that.

Being unable to clear the puck is fault on the players and the coaching staff. Sometimes the defense is unable to move the puck due to poor positioning from the forwards, and that has been the case on many occasions for Toronto. The Maple Leafs lead the league in turnovers during the regular season, so one can make the case that they are simply following in that trend. However, leading in turnovers in unacceptable and must be fixed. Moving forward, the team must make amends of these mistakes and put them to bed. They are the reason why they are down in the series and why many doubt if the Leafs are the “real deal.”


Solving Tuuka

Tuuka Rask has been the best Boston Bruins player throughout this series. He has been consistently strong from game-to-game. Aside from game five, he has outplayed counter part James Reimer for the most part.

It seems that a lot of Maple Leafs goals are being scored on scramble plays, as they are able to catch Rask out of position. That is the Bruins game plan for scoring goals, as it should be for the Leafs. It is clear that you likely won’t beat Rask on a shot; so crashing the net is the next best thing. Players like Colton Orr and Leo Komarov should focus on pestering Rask during their minimal five-on-five time on ice.

Phil Kessel has been shooting high on Rask all series and has yet to beat him on a clear shot (aside from the breakaway). Maybe its time he changes his target.


Other Random Thoughts

Mark Fraser’s injury was gruesome, but the other Leafs defenseman can learn something from it. The injury happened since Fraser committed a grave turnover. Don’t turnover the puck

People shouldn’t get worried about James Reimer’s rebound control in the playoffs. This is his first time playing in the NHL playoffs and he is still relatively young. Its not mind boggling to think he gets better.

Watch Dion Phaneuf play and it is clear he is laboring. Played only 21:38 minutes last game, which was good for third on the Leafs.


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