Game 4 Recap: Bruins 4, Leafs 3 (OT)- A Swift Kick in the Balls Might Hurt Less
When I was in middle and high school, I remember watching playoff games with my dad (I know; it’s been a long time since the Leafs last made the playoffs. Hurr hurr SHUT UP.). The one thing he would often tell me when the game went to overtime was that it seemed that for whatever reason, in games he watched, the team that generated the best scoring chances in playoff OT always seemed to lose. I can remember a couple situations where that was true for the Leafs, though it didn’t seem categorically true.
Well for last night, at least, it was.
A few decent scrambles and chances in front of the net for the Leafs, and Rask stopped them all. Matt Frattin almost seals it, but does his best ’1994 Nathan Lafayette’ impersonation; on an unrelated note, the Leafs locker room may well change their wall slogan to ‘BURN THE POSTS.’ Seriously; burn the fucking posts. Then, on what was an eerie re-enactment of the Roenick OT goal, Phaneuf hits Horton a la Tucker-on-Kapanen, then David Krejci plays the role of Czech Roenick. Much like it was in 2004, my heart hurts right now. A lot.
I’m going to get this out of the way quickly: yes, it was a bad pinch by Phaneuf. Yes, he took the hit over the puck and the positioning. Not the smartest play. But, he doesn’t deserve the goat horns he’s getting here. The irony of Leaf ‘fans’- some of whom I’m assuming never watched this team before the playoffs- going on about Phaneuf is ridiculous when, without the way he played in the regular season, there would be no playoffs. Please, do go on telling me about how we should sit or trade Phaneuf based on ONE PLAY. And then what? Last time I checked, we didn’t have another defenseman capable of playing No. 1 minutes against what was the toughest quality of competition in the entire NHL, and still be the third best possession player in the league relative to said competition. Also, Phaneuf has spent most of his time on ice against the Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line; how have they been doing again at even strength? Ahh, yeah, that’s right.
But, no yeah, getting rid of Phaneuf should totally solve the problem and not blow up in our faces at all. Thanks a ton, armchair geniuses.
But, what’s hilariously sad about that play is that while our best defenseman falls on the sword of Leafs Nation, our worst escapes with no blame at all, despite the fact he deserves to wear the goat horns for this play. Ryan O’Byrne decided he’d play the Krejci goal as if it were a 2-on-1; the only problem was that it wasn’t. Kessel clearly had Lucic under control. Krejci knew it; Lucic knew it; Kessel knew it; O’Byrne is probably the only person not in the game or watching it that didn’t know it. So, no, there is no 2-on-1 and Krejci won’t pass to Lucic because: (a) Kessel is smothering him like an awkward turtleneck at this point; (2) it’s Milan Lucic, who may as well have cement blocks for hands right now, and; (b) Krejci is smart enough on account of being an NHL-caliber player to know such a pass will probably end with Kessel getting the puck and giving a chance to the Leafs.
So, in such a situation, where it’s a 2-on-2, a sane defenseman would actually take his man since, y’know, he’s carrying the fucking puck. But not O’Byrne, nosiree! He decides to make an idiot bonehead play as if it were a 2-on-1 and attempt to cover Lucic even though that’s completely unnecessary. He may or may not also screen Reimer in the process. Krejci shoots, as any NHLer not named Ryan O’Byrne would expect him to, and lookee- goal, game, broken heart. Ryan O’Byrne: stomping on your hopes and dreams since 2013.
The rest of my random thoughts in point form:
-Down Goes Brown alluded to this earlier in the week, but it seems like every playoff team has that guy who doesn’t look so good, and then we find out he had an undisclosed injury, and you all feel like jackasses. I’m convinced right now that Phaneuf is that guy. While I’m only saying we shouldn’t judge him based on this postseason, he hasn’t looked quite right. Having seen him in the regular season, he’s just not himself. He’s not right. And no, Phaneuf played in 25 postseason games prior to this season, so don’t give me that ‘playoff experience’ narrative bullshit. If something is wrong, I’m hedging my bets on an injury. I also hope that if Phaneuf is injured, each and every one of his haters on Bandwagon Nation steps on a lego. Barefoot. Yeah, I said it.
-Jake Gardiner, man. JAKE FUCKING GARDINER. He quietly had himself one hell of a game last night, making two beautiful defensive plays that forced Jaromir Jagr and Patrice Bergeron to cough up the puck. Let me run that by you again: Gardiner went toe-to-toe with one of the best two-way players in the game and an NHL legend. And he WON BOTH TIMES. I’ve consistently said all year I have no clue why the fuck this guy was a healthy scratch so often; after seeing his play in the postseason, any coach that EVER makes him a healthy scratch again for any reason should be punched in the balls by Darcy Tucker. And then fired. But, I really cannot stress that ‘punched in the balls’ part enough.
-That Lucic/Krejci/Horton line is something else this series. As I mentioned above, the Leafs have been effective in shutting down the Bergeron line, but have been hopelessly unable to do anything with these guys. I actually predicted Krejci to score the OT winner for Boston (which I then changed to O’Byrne scoring the OT winner for Boston; I think that makes me right twice). Every time I heard the names Krejci and Horton during the game while the Bruins were in the offensive zone, I wanted to look away and hide under a blanket until someone told me it was safe to come out. So, yeah, suffice to say they’re doing some damage in this series, both on the ice and to my mental well-being.
-Dear everyone talking about that April Reimer/Elisha Cuthbert thing: not only are you wrong and misinformed about what you saw, but we’ve had enough stupid off-ice stuff happen this series and take centre stage over the on-ice happenings. Stop talking about it. Just stop. Right now. I never want to hear about this again, and the only response to what I just said should be ‘hear about what?’ or you also deserve a punch in the balls (or female equivalent thereof).
-Colton Orr takes a really dumb penalty on Zdeno Chara. Boston scores to make it 3-2. This is a recording.
-Orr got 7:27 in TOI, yet Clarke Macarthur gets 8:50? On what planet are these two players equal? After spending two games in the pressbox, Clarky Mark not only plays a pretty solid game looking great at puck possession (the best on the team by far in his two games); he also scores the big tying goal. Yet, he’s second last in TOI, in front of only a guy who’s trade of choice isn’t even really a thing in the postseason. Well, I guess it was nice knowing you Macarthur, and I hope to hell you don’t sign with a team in our division, because we’ll live to regret that forever.
-Boston got its first goal on a pretty questionable call on Leo Komarov. And no, saying that doesn’t make me one of those people who bitches about reffing (we know them better as Habs or Canucks fans). It’s a dumb call by the refs, but they make those bonehead calls on just about every team in the league. It was also a 2-minute Bruins PP intersected by an intermission which was a gift from God in itself; you HAVE to kill those. Just have to. Leafs got sloppy on the PK early in the 2nd, and paid the price.
-That said, after two rare PP goals by Boston (given both their inept powerplay and our shiny and wonderful PK), the PK finally got its shit together when Kadri got a double minor. After a mediocre-to-awful night for the Leafs PK, they redeemed themselves there.
-Mark Fraser injured. On one hand, he made a really bonehead play leading to a Boston chance. But I’m not going to complain about that because he stopped a puck with his face. I repeat: he stopped a puck with his face. When you take a Lucic shot to the forehead, all previous bonehead moves on the play are automatically forgiven.
-With Fraser out, can we please have some more of Franson-Gardiner? Pretty please? That pairing simply looked amazeballs out there.
-For all the complaints of HNIC having a Toronto bias, I sure didn’t see that last night. I’m not sure if I was alone in noticing this, but after the two Toronto goals, they showed the standard after-goal replay, maybe one more after that at most. Fair enough; I saw the goal and a replay, so I get it now. It was when Boston scored two to tie that shit got unbelievably unbearable. Honestly, they must have showed replays of those goals about five times. That first goal especially got shoved down our throats an unbelievably large amount. OH HEY GUYS DIDJA KNOW THE BRUINS TIED HERE ARE THE GOALS FOR THE EIGHTY-FIFTH TIME HERP DERP. A very minor complaint, but holy fuck was that ever getting annoying. Showing James Reimer’s wife in an almost Brent Musberger-like way of creepy was actually a welcome reprieve from that.
-Overall, I can’t complain about how much difficulty the Leafs are having putting pucks past Tuukka Rask. For one, he’s a pretty damn good goalie. Even with an amazing season from Reimer, Rask was even better. On the other note, the Leafs did rely on a fair amount of puck luck and bounces going their way in the regular season to get to the postseason. Now, it seems the puck luck is going the other way and the Leafs aren’t getting the bounces they used to. Lady Luck is a fickle mistress, and against a fundamentally better team, it’s turned on the Leafs.
-SCOREBOARD: Kessel 2, Seguin/Hamilton 0. If nothing else, we have that, Leafs fans.
I hate to be a Buzz Killington here, but this series is over. Done. Finito. If the Leafs couldn’t win with a performance like they had last night, I just don’t see any scenario where they can somehow beat the Bruins three straight. The Leafs, in their first playoff appearance in years with a young team, are not going to beat a Cup contender that won a championship two years ago. There’s a lot of teams the Leafs could take this kind of effort against and either win a series or take it to seven games; for example, they’ve always matched well against Montreal and would have better luck against Pittsburgh’s hot dumpster fire of a goaltending situation. But, the Bruins have excellent goaltending, can slow down the Leafs speed game, and are adroit at pouncing on defensive miscues, which the Leafs dish out in
Costco Kostka-sized bulk.
Regardless of how the Leafs played this series, the playoff cards dealt them a mismatch from the start. If anything, playoff losses force teams to evaluate their weaknesses and make offseason decisions with the mindset of ‘how do we beat the team that beat us?’ Hopefully, this can lead to an honest appraisal of where the Bruins strengths against us lie, and what pieces it would actually take to beat them in a series (READ: more defence, NOT more facepunch).
In any event, there’s at least one game left. I’d like to see a loss in 6 better than one in 5. One in 7 would be even nicer, but one step at a time I guess.
GO LEAFS GO.
Also, this song seems fitting right for today. May just be the title.