Maple Leafs Fall Victim to (another) Game 7 Collapse in Boston
Boston (7) Toronto (4) Final
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Wednesday night. One game on the Stanley Cup Playoff schedule. All of the marbles on the table.
It happened to be an expectedly raucous night for Toronto’s major sports teams as all the major clubs were in action, including but not limited to a pair of playoff series’ and even a championship trophy on the line.
Both the Raptors and Maple Leafs were set to take on their respective playoff foes at 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. EST, with Toronto FC battling it out versus C.D. Guadalajara for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Final in Mexico at 9:30 p.m. EST. Sprinkle in a little Toronto Blue Jays action and you have a self-proclaimed “6ix-style foursome” on the city’s sports schedule—quite possibly one of the most exciting nights in Toronto’s collective sports history.
It served as brief yet uplifting break from the tragedy felt in the city just days ago.
Game 7 would arguably draw the most hype to begin the night. Against the Boston Bruins, at that? No doubt.
After resisting a 3-1 series deficit, the Maple Leafs conceivably alleviated any and all pressure thrust upon them following two-straight victories to send the series up to a winner-take-all spectacle back at TD Garden.
Subsequently, the pressure of blowing a commanding series lead rested on the Bruins’ shoulders—even on home ice.
The omens of a Game 7 collapse in 2013 appeared to have been all-but exorcised five years later for Toronto, setting the stage for an all-out war against Boston for the second time around in recent memory.
It very well could be a swan song for some of the remaining players of that devastating loss, such as James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Leo Komarov with each of their contracts expected to expire and renewals seeming unlikely. On the other side of the coin, the Leafs are also turning the page with remaining pillars in Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, and Morgan Rielly who was drafted 5th overall in 2012.
As the action got underway, the Maple Leafs jumped out to a 1-0 advantage on the back of Patrick Marleau’s 3rd goal of the series.
It came on the power play as a result of a head’s up by Auston Matthews, who dominated the opposition before holding the line to progress the play before William Nylander retrieved the puck to feed Jake Gardiner at the point. Once in his possession, Gardiner found a shooting lane and delivered a shot on goal for Marleau to tip past Tuukka Rask.
Each team to strike first had previously gone on to win in every game of the series up to this point.
The Bruins were gifted a power play of their own just moments later courtesy of Morgan Rielly clearing the puck over the glass for a delay of game infraction. Boston pressed and found the back of the net after a harmless point shot by David Pastrnak was redirected by Jake DeBrusk, his 4th of the series, to find the equalizer.
Toronto countered quickly and actually managed to respond just 1:25 later to re-take their lead on Marleau’s 2nd tally of the night. Mitch Marner connected with Marleau at the face-off circle, where he unleashed a blistering wrist shot to beat Rask for the second time in the frame.
Boston was not done just yet and continued the fireworks with two straight goals to ignite the crowd and take a 3-2 lead before the intermission.
Inserted into the lineup for the first time since Game 2, Danton Heinen recorded his 1st career playoff goal to even the score at 2-apiece and sent the Bruins faithful into a frenzy. With that momentum in hand, Patrice Bergeron went on to net a devastating goal in the final minute of play to give the Bruins their first lead of the night.
Following the intermission, the Maple Leafs marked it as their period and went on to record two-straight goals of their own.
Travis Dermott and Kasperi Kapanen each scored, respectively, to give their team a 4-3 advantage after forty minutes. Kapanen recorded a slick shorthanded goal to stun the Bruins and give his team the lead, prompting Leafs Nation to explode with excitement.
Although the Maple Leafs may have entered the final twenty minutes of play with a lead, it didn’t mean it would last very long with a rambunctious home crowd behind the Bruins. I mean, four-unanswered goals have to be inspired somehow.
The Bruins opened the third period with a goal by Torey Krug just 1:10 following puck drop to even the score 4-4. Mike Babcock was visibly upset on the Maple Leafs bench but redemption seemed within reach—until Jake DeBrusk notched his 2nd of the night to his team a one-goal lead.
Later in the frame, David Pastrnak, who had been snakebitten since Game 2, recorded his 5th goal of the series to put Boston ahead 6-4 with plenty of time remaining, however, the Maple Leafs proved unable to fight back and tie the game after the point of no return.
Brad Marchand added an empty-net goal to seal the series and send the Leafs home packing after a valiant effort, leaving many fans disappointed after the utter roller coaster of emotions over the last week.
Additionally, Jake Gardiner proved to be a difference-maker in the worst way imaginable, considering his -5 +/- rating was the source of several key goals by the Bruins. The performance of an entire team never rests on a single player but it surely does not excuse being on the losing end of the equation.
It should prove to be a long off-season full of questions for the Maple Leafs, beginning with the General Manager position that is set to be vacant due to Lou Lamoriello’s expiring contract. Not to mention, the plethora of free agents awaiting contracts on the open market. Through all of this, Leafs Nation should be hopeful for the future of their young stars—both new and new…er.
Both Kasperi Kapenen and Andreas Johnsson burst onto the scene with a point to prove, the being they belong in the NHL full-time. It should go without saying that both of the skilled forwards have all-but guaranteed themselves full-time positions on the team next season.
All in all, the Bruins will now move on to go toe-to-toe with the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2—Game 1 goes on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. EST.
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Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs