While it’s generally outside the bounds of good policy to ease into a seven game playoff series, the Toronto Maple Leafs did just that. The club was tentative, unsettled and clearly outmatched in the opening salvo of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against a more experienced Boston Bruins squad.
Everyone knew there would be changes to the lineup entering the second game of the series. One was absolutely necessary, as defender Mike Kostka suffered a broken finger in the first outing.
Beyond that obligatory change, the Blue and White were in dire need of something to change the look of the club heading into the second game of the series. In the previous match, Randy Carlyle’s group attempted to beat the Bruins at their own game as the lineup featured two enforcers in Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr. The Leafs were determined to physically overpower Boston, something they would find tough to do.
The fix for the Leafs seemed simple enough. They needed to better utilize their speed in order to counter the Bruins’ physicality. So, out were the curiously underperforming Clarke MacArthur, big bruiser Frazer McLaren, and veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles. Replacing them were a list of former Marlies, including Captain Ryan Hamilton, forward Matt Frattin, and the much discussed, Jake Gardiner.
None of these three additions would help solve the Leafs’ experiential deficit versus the Bruins, but each brought something to the club that was missing in game one, and were all major parts of the first Leafs playoff win in nine years.
In replacing Clarke MacArthur on the third line, Hamilton brought to the club exactly what he always has, providing energy in the form of physical play. He also blocked shots and played responsible defence which are both hallmarks of his game. Additionally, he even started the play on Phil Kessel’s goal with a nifty between the legs pass to Nazem Kadri.
Frattin has proven at times to be a prolific scorer at the Minor League level, something that has eluded him at the NHL level. What he does bring to the table is a combination of speed and physical play, with a side order of offensive touch. All of these were on display throughout the game, but never more so than on his assist of Joffrey Lupul’s second tally. His power move to get around Bruins defender Dennis Seidenberg showed speed and determination, while his cross crease pass underlined his offensive acumen.
Jake Gardiner’s season has been a tough one on many different levels. However, in game two versus the Bruins, he looked like the Gardiner of last year. He provided a calm presence on the power play, both while rushing the puck up ice and distributing it in the offensive zone. He also played with good poise in his own end, save for a couple especially dicey turnovers early in the first period. Gardiner too, managed a power play assist on the Leafs’ first goal of the game.
All three former Marlies that were inserted into the Leafs’ lineup made significant contributions to the win, both offensively and defensively. They helped provide both energy and poise for a group that seemed to lack both in the previous outing. It would stand to reason that barring any injuries, all three should see themselves in the lineup on Monday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs play their first home playoff game since May of 2004.