What we learned from the Maple Leafs’ Game 1 loss: 5 takeaways

BOSTON — With the ghosts of past playoff failures against the Boston Bruins lingering over the Toronto Maple Leafs, nearly everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in Game 1.

Missing William Nylander proved costly as the Leafs got no offence from the top of their lineup, took costly penalties and didn’t get the kind of stable goaltending they needed in a 5-1 loss.

Save for a third-period goal from David Kampf that only came after the game was all but decided, there weren’t many bright spots for the Leafs. Even though the Leafs outshot the Bruins 36 to 24, the home side outworked the visitors consistently enough to make life difficult. 

Under head coach Sheldon Keefe, the Leafs have now lost five of six playoff series openers. 

The Leafs never found much rhythm at all, enough that it seems like lineup changes could be coming in Game 2.

Leafs’ stars don’t produce

Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares presented the kind of offensive firepower the Bruins don’t necessarily have at the top of their lineup. Coming into the series, that was thought to be one of the advantages the Leafs have over the Bruins.

Matthews and Tavares stood out with their efforts to get to Jeremy Swayman and the Bruins goal. Still, while those three combined for 13 shots on goal and 23 shot attempts, they had nothing to show for it on the score sheet.

Not having William Nylander in the lineup hurts this Leafs team, in fairness to them and their offensive output. The way they’re constructed, the Leafs need to get production from the top of the lineup. If one of those few pieces of the puzzle is missing, and if the other pieces don’t create offence? The results speak for themselves.


Why William Nylander may be out of Game 1 for the Maple Leafs

TD Garden a house of horrors

The visitors wanted to physically engage and set the tone of the game. The first few shifts saw multiple Leafs throw noticeable hits. It made for a promising start from a team that has been accused in the past of not playing physical enough.

But then midway through the first period, Pat Maroon demolished Timothy Liljegren with a hit that sent the Leafs defenceman toppling into the Bruins bench and you were reminded, oh yea, these are still the Bruins who can handle whatever physicality is thrown their way.

The TD Garden crowd continued to be at their raucous best as the game wore on. “USA!” chants? Check. Razzing Ilya Samsonov relentlessly after he gave up the third and fourth goals? Check.

Starting on the road certainly didn’t harden the Leafs this series, but hampered them.



Former Maple Leafs on why TD Garden has been the team’s playoff kryptonite: ‘You start losing the ability to think’

Bruins puck pressure a problem

Aside from the physicality and how intimidating the TD Garden faithful made it for the Leafs, the most notable takeaway from the first period? The Bruins ability to pressure the puck and create turnovers is second to none. That allowed the Bruins to hit multiple posts in the first period alone. While they had far too easy a time getting close to Samsonov, the Leafs didn’t enter the first intermission with many, if any, Grade A chances.

That puck pressure, combined with unfortunate reads from Joel Edmundson and Ryan Reaves, led to an odd-man rush against and a quick opening goal from Bruins centre John Beecher.

In the second period, those same heavy efforts on the puck led to the Bruins outworking the Leafs in their own zone. Bruins defenceman Brandon Carlo capitalized with an equally heavy shot against a tired Leafs group.

Bad penalties costly for Leafs

The penalties Auston Matthews and Max Domi took in the second period were entirely unnecessary and the Bruins capitalized. Those two penalties weren’t just dumb to take, they limited the time the Leafs could have their best offensive players on the ice and allowed the Bruins to put the game to bed with two Jake DeBrusk power-play goals.

It’s worth remembering that the Leafs finished the regular season with a bottom-10 penalty kill in the league (76.9 percent).

Domi, in particular, walked a fine line from before puck drop. He was trying to engage Brad Marchand all game and you had to expect the referees would be keeping an eye on him. If the Leafs aren’t going to tighten things up, the Bruins power play could end up being a difference-maker in this series.

Ilya Samsonov on the hot seat

One pressing question coming into this series: would Samsonov be able to hold down the fort in the Leafs goal after a dramatic up-and-down season?

We didn’t get a full, comprehensive answer to the question in Game 1, but we got close. Samsonov gave up four goals on 23 shots while his counterpart, Jeremy Swayman, only allowed one goal on 36 shots. You could make the case that – even though the Leafs were killing a penalty – Samsonov needed to make a save on the Bruins third goal.

Samsonov has been at his best this season when he has looked, and played, calm and composed. In Game 1, Samsonov was caught far out of his goal multiple times.

Does Sheldon Keefe turn to Samsonov again in Game 2? It feels likely, but the leash has certainly gotten shorter after Game 1.

(Photo: Brian Fluharty / Getty Images)

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