Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saturday Storylines: Don't panic (yet)

Welcome back to the Saturday Storylines, and welcome to the post-season. We’re back for another week or two, since we’ll have enough on the plate each Saturday to keep the storylines coming through the opening round. We’ve got four Game 2s today, three of which feature the home team trying to take a 2-0 series lead. We’ll start our tour around the league in Boston.

HNIC Game of the Night: Maple Leafs at Bruins

Well, here’s the good news for the Maple Leafs: Tonight will probably go better than Thursday did.

Here’s the bad news: It had better.

Game 1 didn’t bring much in the way of positives for Toronto fans hoping to see their team win its first round since 2004. On paper, the matchup with Boston looked tough but winnable. On the ice, the Bruins looked like the better team for just about the entire night. They dominated possession, got the better of the matchups, and had the more effective special teams. The Bruins also got better goaltending, were more disciplined, and even won the coaching battle, with the Leafs failing to challenge what sure looked like an offside on the Bruins’ first goal.

Other than all that, it went fine for Toronto.

In fairness, the 5-1 final score may have been slightly more lopsided than the Leafs deserved – the game was tied until late in the second, and the Leafs were still vaguely in it until Nazem Kadri‘s third-period major for boarding Tommy Wingels. As far as opening-game disasters go, this wasn’t the Flyers losing 7-0 to the Penguins. Not quite.

But however you want to judge it, the loss still leaves Toronto needing a win to avoid heading home down 2-0 in the series. Tonight won’t quite be a must-win, but beating this Bruins team four out of five would be a daunting task, so the pressure is on. At the very least, they’ll want to show that they can look like they belong in the series.

They’ll have to do it without Kadri, who’ll sit out three games for his reckless hit. That’s a major blow to the Leafs’ chances, especially after many of the team’s top forwards had quiet nights on Thursday. The Bruins have a way of doing that to stars, but the Maple Leafs will need to see a lot more from Auston Matthews, William Nylander and James van Riemsdyk, among others, if they’re going to even things up. And with Kadri’s absence highlighting the team’s shaky depth down the middle, they’ll need to finally get something from trade deadline pickup Thomas Plekanec, assuming he even stays in the lineup.

A Leafs win sends us back to Toronto all square, and with a whole new set of narratives. A loss means we can expect to hear plenty of that old cliché about how you’re never really in trouble until you’ve lost at home, and there’s some truth to that. But another effort like the one we saw on Thursday will plant some serious doubt that the series will even still be going on by the time a scheduled Game 5 arrives this time next Saturday.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

1 comment:

  1. As a Blackhawks fan, I am not panicking this year. I believe the bigger story is no Bob Cole announcing playoff hockey this year. I believe that is illegal in Canada, Rogers may want to call their lawyer