The Toronto Maple Leafs Head Home for Game 3 Searching for Answers
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, games 1 and 2 in Boston were nothing short of a disaster. The Leafs went through the entire regular season without losing a game by four or more goals. After losing both games 1 and 2 by four goals, its time for the leagues highest paid coach to make some lineup changes.
The leafs haven’t been a good defensive team all season. Their defence group is widely considered the weakness of their team. Boston has done most of their damage from right in front of the Leafs net, because they can. The Leafs are offering very little resistance to keep them out of the high scoring areas, and unless the Leafs become a harder team to play against this series will be a short one.
the Gardiner Zaitsev pairing needs to be done with. Zaitsev has been brutal and Gardiner has a clear history of playing great with Rielly and Carrick. Poor play by Zaitsev resulted in the first 3 goals for the Bruins Saturday. He got caught chasing Brad Marchand on the first goal leaving Pastrnak alone in front, Then got out muscled and lost position on the second goal and to finish it off had the third goal go off his skate. The time may be know for Mike Babcock to take Zaitsev out of the lineup in favour of Connor Carrick. Then again, that also leaves Polak and Hainsey in, so the Leafs D is in trouble.
It is hard to find positives with any of the d pairings through the first two games. Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey have been steady for most of the season, but Ron Hainsey is in way over his head on a top pairing. Lastly, the Dermott/Polak pairing. Travis Dermott has been outstanding since he was called up and looks ready for a bigger role.
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With The Nazem Kadri Suspension Mike Babcock was forced to make some changes to his forward group. He chose to move Leo Komarov up to the first line, and while that was hardly the reason the Leafs lost game 2, they have better options. With it up in the air whether Komarov will play next game because of injury, it is back to the drawing board for the Head Coach. This Leafs lineup could give them the best chance:
Johnsson Mathews Nylander
JVR Marleau Marner
Hyman Bozak Kapanen
Komarov Plekanec Brown
If Komarov is unable to play than Josh Leivo can fill that spot on the fourth line. Instead of the leafs trying different ways to try and shut down the Bruins, they should focus on their strength. Speed and skill. Load up as much speed and skill on their top lines and defend the Bruins by having the puck all game. The Toronto Maple Leafs were built to score, not to win low scoring games. Force the Bruins top players to chase the puck and defend in their own zone.
It looks like a daunting task for the Leafs to get back into this series, but they have the ability to do it. They have been excellent at home all season and that will have to continue. Playoff series are a marathon not a sprint, the Leafs need their strength to show out.