The keys to success for the Maple Leafs ahead of Game 2 in Boston

Mike Armenti
April 22, 2024  (10:48)

John Tavares goes in for some fist bumps after a big goal
Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs were systematically dismantled by the Boston Bruins in Game 1. There are, however, some keys to success for the Leafs that may help propel them past the Bruins in Game 2.

After dropping a 5-1 decision to Boston on Monday and surrendering a 1-0 series lead, the Maple Leafs will want to avoid digging themselves into a deeper hole by dropping to 0-2 to begin their first round series. How can they do that? Well, there are a few things that they'll need to do differently in Game 2. Here are the keys to success for the Leafs tonight:

There are 5 main keys to success for the Leafs in Game 2:

1. Stay disciplined and eliminate the dumb penalties:
The Leafs took several undisciplined stick penalties on Saturday night, giftwrapping power play opportunity after power play opportunity for the Bruins. Obviously, being short-handed all game long isn't a recipe for success, so the Leafs will need to stay out of the box tonight at all costs, unless the penalties they take are off-setting and a Bruin is going to the box with them. This will mean that the Leafs will have to control their sticks better and avoid being the third man into the post-whistle extra-curricular activity.
2. Finish checks, but not at the cost of maintaining good position:
The Leafs threw several hits on Saturday that really burned them. Finishing your checks is important, but if the hit you're throwing takes you out of position, you're not helping your team, you're padding your hitting stats.
To clarify, I'm not saying that the Leafs need to pull back on the physical play, they just need to choose their spots better and realize where the puck is going if they commit to a hit. If it's creating a high-danger chance for the opposition, it's better to just stay in position instead.
3. Take away the eyes of Jeremy Swayman/Linus Ullmark:
The Bruins have not yet confirmed their netminder for Monday's Game 2, but I'm sure it will be Jeremy Swayman getting the nod after Saturday's monstrous performance.
The Leafs peppered Swayman all night, but seldom did they fire anything on net with a body posted directly in front of the young goaltender. The Leafs need to find ways to get traffic in front of the net and then get pucks through while Swayman is fighting for a line of sight. If they can do that, maybe they can catch him by surprise. A goalie can't stop what he can't see.
The Leafs have two players on the roster who have really thrived in front of the net in their careers in Tyler Bertuzzi and John Tavares. They need to allow Bertuzzi and Tavares to play to their strengths rather than playing the perimeter game.
4. Clear the front of the net in their own zone and allow Samsonov/Woll to see pucks:
This one is a no-brainer. For the same reasons that they'll want to obstruct Swayman's vision, the Leafs will want to provide as many clear lines of sight for Ilya Samsonov as possible. The same is true if Joseph Woll gets the nod.
5. Don't get cute, just get pucks to the net:
The Leafs have a tendency to overthink and overcomplicate things on offense. They're a pretty good possession team and can rack up the offensive zone time with the best of them, but they have to stop playing keep-away with the puck and just start getting pucks on goal.
With players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly in Game 1, they typically thrive on their creativity. But with the games being a lot tighter in the postseason, adjusting your style of play can be the difference between winning and losing.
The Leafs like to hold onto the puck and weave through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, but when the puck is bouncing on you, it can be hard to maintain control. Sometimes a dump in with a good, hard forecheck is just what the doctor ordered. It works against them, so why can't it work for them?
In addition, most of the goals scored in the playoffs are "garbage goals", meaning that a routine puck to the net that creates a rebound is just as valuable as a one-timer from the hashmarks or a filthy dangle. Perhaps even more valuable. Once a goalie commits to a save, sometimes they have a tough time tracking down the rebound. That momentary loss of the puck could result in an easy tap in.
There are other areas in which the Leafs can improve, but these 5 keys to success are arguably the most important areas that the Leafs can make adjustments in to give themselves the best chance to win Game 2.
APRIL 22   |   327 ANSWERS
The keys to success for the Maple Leafs ahead of Game 2 in Boston

What is the Leafs' biggest flaw in the playoffs?

They get too cute with the puck247.3 %
They don't clear the front of their net4012.2 %
Dumb, undisciplined penalties9328.4 %
All of the above17052 %
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