The Toronto Maple Leafs held on for dear life in the waning minutes of Game 3. The Bruins had significant pressure on with their cage empty and the extra skater on the ice. Mitch Marner put his body on the line as he laid out in front of a point-blank slap shot. He blocked two shots that very well could have gotten through against a screened Frederik Andersen.
There was a ton of traffic in front of the net and I’m not sure Andersen would have seen it all. On the second shot, Marner came inches from taking a 95mph slapper to his face. He came up limping after, but the road to the Stanley Cup Final has to take some sacrifice from guys to get there. If William Nylander played with half as much heart as Marner, the Leafs would be unstoppable.
In any event, Nylander playing at centre hasn’t been too bad of a formula for the Leafs. With Kadri out due to a suspension, Nylander has moved to centre and he did so in the regular season as well when he was injured. The Leafs have gone 6-2 without Kadri in the lineup, so he hasn’t been as important as last year in the playoffs.
They didn’t have John Tavares then and depth was more of an issue. I’d be surprised if they retain the right of Kadri in the long-term, especially with having to fit Marner under the salary cap. I doubt they let Marner get away and sign elsewhere, but it’s going to take some rearranging.
He plays with passion and I think the Leafs lack some of that from a lot of other guys. Auston Matthews is an incredibly talented player, though it looks like he’s in the twilight zone sometimes. Maybe not on the same level as Eli Manning, but he only looks awake when a goal is credited to him. Marner is the difference in this series right now, and it isn’t just because of the last 10 seconds of Game 3. Head below for our free Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Game 4 pick.
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Game 4 Pick
The Maple Leafs can put the Bruins into a submission hold with a win tonight. They can take this series and go back to TD Garden in Boston with a 3-1 lead. It was pretty evident that they didn’t have the same energy out of the game in the 1st period. They were hitting everything that moved in Game 2 and didn’t have the same jump in Toronto for the next game.
After how the Leafs just sat there and allowed the Bruins to punch them in the mouth, it wasn’t any surprise that Toronto offered some pushback in Game 3. Andersen was outstanding again, as he made 32 saves with a 0.94 save percentage. Rask didn’t play a bad game for the Bruins, but he wasn’t the better netminder that night.
Rask has been a much goaltender at home than on the road this season and the Leafs were able to exploit that. Note that he has an impressive GAA of 2.32 though that falls to a 2.65 GAA on the road. The Bruins were 3rd in the regular season with 2.59 goals against per game, but that regresses to 2.74 goals on the road, along with just 2.83 goals scored.
Conversely, the Maple Leafs have scored an average of 3.55 at Scotiabank Arena. The way I see it, both teams need this game the same. It of course makes more sense that the Bruins need a win to tie the series up to block a 3-1 series lead for Toronto. However, the Leafs lose here and they’re going back to Boston in a hostile environment in a 2-2 series.
Winning again in TD Garden is going to be tricky, so this is the turning point of the series. If Mike Babcock can’t get how important this game is across to his team, then they don’t deserve to advance to the second-round. I believe he does, though, and the Leafs win another nail biter to push the Bruins on the brink of elimination. Andersen is going to be the difference for the Leafs once again.