May 12, 2013

Postgame Breakdown: Leafs force Game 7

By Jesse Connolly

The Leafs gather in front of Tuukka Rask to celebrate Dion Phaneuf's goal. (Getty Images)

Final: Toronto 2, Boston 1

Recap: After coming out strong and playing well in the first period, the Bruins failed to grab an early lead and headed to the middle frame scoreless.

In the second, the B's held a 10-9 edge, but Toronto began to take over the play, buzzing around Tuukka Rask's net and generating a lot of opportunities from close range. But the B's netminder was able to match James Reimer's strong performance down the other end of the rink, stopping all 16 shots he faced through 40 minutes.

Dion Phaneuf finally opened the scoring at the 1:48 mark of the third, parking himself in front of Rask and redirecting a shot by Nazem Kadri into the back of the net. The Bruins continued to get outplayed and fell behind by two with 11:01 to go.

A shot from Cody Franson produced a rebound. James van Riemsdyk got a stick on it, but Phil Kessel swooped in and buried it. Boston's last gasp saw Milan Lucic made it a 2-1 game with 26 seconds left, but their only attempted shot the rest of the way (by Patrice Bergeron) was blocked in the slot. Ballgame. 

Series: Bruins and Leafs tied 3-3

Playoff Records: Boston 3-3; Toronto 3-3

Key Play of the Game: With a potential Gamee staring them square in the face, the Bruins managed to fire just two shots on Reimer from with 30 feet of the net following Phaneuf's goal. Consider it a combo of good defense by the Leafs and really poor net drive by the Black and Gold.

Connolly's Commendations: Props to Rask for being the only Bruin that brought his 'A' game north of the border in this one. Without him, the Leafs would've grabbed a lead long before the third period.

Reimer and Toronto's much-improved defense also deserve credit for their respective performances in this one. Both were maligned early on in this series and have played huge roles in the Leafs evening this series up. 

Connolly's Critiques: We're now at six games and counting with no goals from the following individuals: Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Jaromir Jagr, Chris Kelly. There's two-thirds of your second and third lines. The Bruins would likely have been eliminated by now if it weren't for the superhuman efforts of the David Krejci line in the first four games of this series.

Aside from 6-on-5 play, Claude Julien pretty much didn't show any willingness to try to rectify the Bruins' scoring woes via some line swapping. The final 10 minutes, in which the B's were pretty much cooked, would've been a great opportunity to do so. Instead, we'll probably see him continue to stick to his guns in Game 7.

Notes: The Bruins have now seen a 3-1 series lead erased for the third time in the last seven trips to the playoffs (2004 vs. Montreal, 2010 vs. Philadelphia, 2013 vs. Toronto). In a strange bit of irony, Lucic also scored in the final minute of a 2-1, Game 6 loss in the last series the Bruins coughed up a 3-1 lead, which also followed the Bruins bombing in Game 5 on home ice. The Bruins have exited the playoffs via a Game 7 loss in five of Claude Julien's six seasons behind the bench.

Final Thoughts: Think tonight's loss calls for a  separate "how did it come to this?" piece, but for now, we'll leave it at this: The Bruins had all the momentum and home ice advantage in Game 5, and simply should've closed out the series. Instead, they forced themselves into having to go 3-for-3 up in Toronto if they wanted to avoid Game 7. They couldn't. And now, their season will be on the line, too, when these teams meet again.

Next: Speaking of said meeting, Game 7's on Monday night at 7 o'clock at TD Garden.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ