It took almost 86 games, but the Toronto Maple Leafs finally delivered the 60-minute effort Mike Babcock has stressed since the day he arrived 4 years ago in the team’s 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins, at TD Garden Friday.
It was a high energy paced tilt between two equally matched teams, although the Leafs have had a slight overall edge in play throughout the series save for game two.
From puck drop the Toronto forwards were dialed in and a force in all three zones. They were first on the puck; moved their feet and kept the Bruins vulnerable D on their heels most of the evening. The game was still physical, but Toronto’s quickness allowed them to move the puck, make some plays while holding the Boston zone. Tuukka Rask was sharp and had to make some key saves while Frederik Andersen was equally brilliant on a number of chances by the Beantowners.
Auston Matthews on a terrific pass from Jake Muzzin made no mistake on his 4th of the playoffs to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead with 8-minutes remaining in the game. He also initiated the play to spring Johnsson, Reilly and Kapanen who put the visitors up by two a few minutes later.
David Krejci the Bruins best forward in the series cut the lead to one with 43-seconds on the clock to make for a nail-biting, hair pulling end for Leafs Nation.
The Leafs with relentless pursuit of the puck had the Bruins chasing them all over the ice and the line of Tavares, Marner and Hyman once again put the clamps on the Bruins big line. Frustrated, coach Cassidy moved Pastrnak around to try to free him from the coverage serving as added motivation for the Leafs because the message was clear.
Our best line can’t beat yours even in our own rink.
Another example of a coach trying to out think the game; this line is the only reason this team has a chance to win and for once the Toronto side has gotten in the heads of their hated rival.
Equally as important is the Tavares unit is as lethal with the puck as without and 91 has proven beyond a doubt how much of a difference, he has made this season. As the games become more difficult his level of play has risen as well.
Trying to deal with him along with line mate Mitch Marner is tough enough but right behind is Matthews and Kapanen who are just as dangerous if not more.
The key for the Leafs is the bottom six is giving the boys in black and gold all they can handle as well.
It was a total team effort from goal – out that will have to be equally as good Sunday because as good as they were, the Bruins were a threat to the last second.
Boston will not fade away; they’ve been in similar situations the past few years and know what it takes; you can bet they will come guns a blazing for game six but if Toronto can match the effort from Friday?
It could be a very happy Easter Sunday for them and the legion of followers.