May 4, 2013

Leafs have lots of areas to improve upon in Game 2

By Jesse Connolly

Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur shoves Bruins center Gregory Campbell into the glass. (Getty Images)

After  a promising start to their first postseason appearance in nine years, Wednesday night's Game 1 in Boston went south fast for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Following James van Riemsdyk's power-play goal 1:54 into the game, the Leafs weren't just outscored 4-0 by the Bruins. They were also outshot 40-18 over the final 58 minutes of play, had defensive deficiencies up the wazoo,were plagued by noticeably shaky goaltending, couldn't break out of their own zone and had a bare minimum of quality scoring chances against Tuukka Rask.

That sure makes it sound like coach Randy Carlyle has to make many a tweak to his game plan for the second tilt in this series on Satuday night. 

Being more composed would be a good start.

“We were sloppy, we had jitters, it wasn't the style we like to play,” said forward Clarke MacArthur. “We want to change that.”

The Leafs biggest challenge is finding a way to generate offense when Zdeno Chara is on the ice. Coming into the series, the 6-foot-9 defenseman was plus-15 in his previous 10 regular-season contests against Toronto. He was plus-1 on Wednesday in 23:38 of ice time and helped Boston effectively shut down the opposition's big guns.

“I don’t think we test him enough,” MacArthur told The Globe and Mail on Friday when asked about the Leafs approach solving Chara. “He’s a big guy and you’re not going to win the one-on-one battles maybe in the corners as much, but if you can make him turn and move a little bit, you’re going to find a little room out there.”

While it appears likely Carlyle's play-our-goons-to-match-Boston's-toughness experiment will be of the one-and-done variety, the Leafs' bench will have a more talented lineup from top to bottom, but he still needs his top stars to come through.

Nazem Kadri is among them. The gifted center was sloppy in his first NHL playoff game, finishing with a minus-1 rating and just one shot on goal in what amounted to considerably less ice time (13:35) than he saw throughout the season. 

“I just had a couple of turnovers, down low I wasn’t moving my feet as well as I can, wasn’t able to find guys on the move,” Kadri told the Toronto Sun. “It’s a game that I love to play. Now I’ve got to bring that same heart and passion that I always bring, that competitive nature, to the next game. I think we all understand that we didn’t play our best games."

Can the Leafs play their "best" game on Saturday evening and even up this series? That remains to be determined, but the Bruins certainly expect Toronto to be much better in this go-round and won't be easing up after cruising to victory in Game 1.

"No matter what, we shouldn’t," coach Claude Julien said. "It’s as simple as that. You just have to look around the league and see what’s going on, a lot of series are tied 1-1. There’s nothing to get cocky about, or confident about, you just got to play every team the way you thought you would play that first one. We know they’re going to be a better team tonight, this is not a secret to anybody, but we have to be better ourselves."

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ