The Toronto Maple Leafs put aside the demons, ghosts and the hostile environment of TD Garden in a convincing 4-1 opening series victory over nemesis the Boston Bruins.
Mitch Marner lead the way with two goals including one on a rare penalty shot while shorthanded yet that was a thing of beauty. His dazzling stick-handling moves before tucking the puck into the open cage left Bruin net-minder Tuukka Rask looking like a drunken sailor and pointed in the right direction from dizziness.
The key to victory was the Leafs ability to use their speed to be first on the puck, kept their feet moving through checks and ignored the late hits, shoves and all the nonsense usually doled out by the Bean-towners.
It started out like the usual nightmare in this building after a William Nylander penalty put the Bruins lethal power-play to work. It wasn’t long before on a nice ticktacktoe setup Leafs killer Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring.
Toronto, while struggling in their own end at times, kept most of the play to the perimeter similar to how teams started to defend them earlier in the year. This kept the always-dangerous Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak unit in check most of the evening and if you keep that threesome off the board, your chances of a ‘W’ are pretty good.
Frederik Andersen looked like his old self-turning away 37-shots but it was his calmness in the net, covering up the puck every chance he could and a few brilliant saves particularly right after they fell behind 1-0 and on a Kapanen penalty moments after Marner had tied the score.
Toronto gained lots of confidence as the game progressed and took advantage of the slow Boston defense creating numerous scoring opportunities and breakaways. Zedano Chara, whose best days are years behind him, still has that deadly reach that seems to cover the whole rink and outside of ‘picking,’ running from behind and chopping at the speedy Leafs forwards he was burnt all night long. They need to keep the puck down his side because he turned it over whenever pressured.
The more the frustrated Bruins pressed they got burned on at least 4 or 5 breakaways and none more gratifying than Nazim Kadri’s world class pass to Nylander who made no mistake putting the visitors up a pair.
Kadri played the type of game needed for this team to be successful and along with the 4th line harassed the Bruins ‘D’ all night.
John Tavares put the game out of reach with an empty netter but his persistence on the fore-check and his own end was another source of discomfort for the Bruins.
Auston Matthews while kept off the score sheet played a terrific game and put on a dazzling display of moves that kept the opposition off kilter any time he was on the ice.
Great effort all around but its only one game and Boston didn’t get over a 100 points as a team by fluke. For the Leafs to be victorious they will need this effort every shift going forward; they are deeper in talent, much faster and skilled, but heart come playoffs time can neutralize all of the above and if they can match the hungry Bruins in this department it could be a sunny spring for Leafs nation.