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Maple Leafs' growth on display in crucial Game 3 victory over Bruins

18 April, 2018, 01:50 | Author: Lula Armstrong
  • Bruins road gets a bit tougher as Maple Leafs take Game 3, 4-2

While the Leafs have seen some pretty impressive improvement in their offensive play, their defence is taking a bit of a hit. The Bruins, meanwhile, couldn't get the bounces.

The centre scored the go-ahead goal in the second period as the Leafs picked up a 4-2 victory to cut the Bruins' lead in their first-round series to 2-1.

But apart from van Riemsdyk's goal, the biggest cheer came when Zach Hyman leveled Marchand with a solid hit that sent the Bruins winger flying.

This was a huge win for the Leafs and was a huge step forward for them to bounce back in the series. With Toronto having the final line change during Game 3, coach Mike Babcock made a decision to match up his second line of Patrick Marleau, Plekanec, and Mitch Marner with the Bergeron line.

Toronto was especially lethal off the rush, led by two goals from Patrick Marleau. But they were chasing the game all night while the Leafs found a rhythm in the attacking end and layered up in the defensive and neutral zones. "Because they come together - there's no call immediately".

This was unveiled at the game-day skate, with Plekanec between Kadri's regular linemates, Patrick Marleau, whose switch to centre for Game 2 was a flop, and Mitch Marner.

Again minus centre Nazem Kadri, who served the second game of a three-game ban for his hit on Tommy Wingels in Game 1, Toronto bumped Tomas Plekanec up from the fourth line to play between Marleau and Marner on the No. 2 unit. The 28-year-old had his best game of the series, making 40 saves and was rock steady all night.

Now the Leafs have to re-create the result again before the series shifts back to Boston, ideally with the same players having a prominent role in the outcome. Familiar culprits Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev let Rick Nash and Pastrnak get loose in front but Andersen made a great save on Pastrnak and the Leafs managed to kill the penalty.

Coming off a lackluster performance in Game 2 where he made an ill-advised, ineffectual move to centre, Marleau was looking for his own bounce-back performance, this time against the same Bergeron line that killed the Leafs with 14 points just two nights before.

Andersen would love to have the first two goals back, but for the rest of the game he was nothing short of outstanding.

"We were on it all game, we had our legs, we were playing the right way, and if there was a breakdown we were there to bail out", said Marleau, who finished with two shots on goal and was plus-two.

You knew that the Leafs would bring their biggest and strongest efforts to Game 3, as they were thoroughly embarrassed in Boston.

But just when it looked like the B's would get out of the first unscathed, the Leafs got their first break of the series, and then their first lead. We talked about Auston [Matthews] and Freddie is one of those guys that has to feel like he's back. We're set up real good that way.

Andersen was quite good, as was another player that Babcock mentioned in the aforementioned comment. The Bruins were lucky to head to the dressing room down only one.

Despite all the scoring in this series so far, both teams have boxed out the inner slot relatively well, with only 4.67 high danger chances per team, per game at 5-on-5, which is lower than league average in the regular season. Hyman returned to the top line with Matthews and Nylander. And after over 154 minutes of being stymied in these playoffs, Matthews was left free to use his speed and skill to generate some of the offence Toronto had been lacking with a vintage scoring play teed up between him and linemate William Nylander. Patrice Bergeron also got stopped on a point-blank opportunity with Andersen down on the ice. Matthews said. "That was a game changer for sure, because there was still two minutes left and (if he doesn't make the save) now you're down by one".


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