Maple Leafs report cards: Desperation pays off as Toronto stays alive

Joseph Woll didn’t hear no bell.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were facing elimination and were without Auston Matthews, but their young goaltender made key save after key save in the final minutes to give his team a chance. John Tavares made a fantastic play to drive the puck to the net in overtime, and Matthew Knies jumped on a rebound to be the hero. Toronto’s scoring woes continued in a 2-1 victory, but it’s tough to argue that this was anything but an excellent road win.

Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins better catch a flight to Toronto.

Three stars

First star: Joseph Woll

Woll was bored early on, as the Leafs held the Bruins to just two shots in the first. Boston’s second shot beat Woll, but the goal against was largely due to a bad turnover from Simon Benoit rather than bad goaltending:

He was busier to start the second and made this key stop to keep the game tied:

He stopped all 10 shots that he faced in the second, and made some massive stops to keep the game tied in the third:

The Bruins came out buzzing to start overtime, but Woll was not going to let his team down. He was excellent.

Second star: Matthew Knies

Knies wasn’t overly noticeable early on, but his line didn’t give up much the other way either. His best shift was at the end of the second, where he showed off his puck protection skill before coming close on a wrap-around attempt. He exchanged pleasantries with David Pastrnak to finish the sequence off:

He had one bad turnover in the early third, but no one will remember that now as he was the overtime hero:

Third star: John Tavares

He was playing plenty of minutes with Matthews out, and the Leafs out-chanced the Bruins during his minutes. I wouldn’t quite call him a game-breaker offensively in regulation, but he played a massive role in the overtime winner.

Player reports


The first line (Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi and Mitch Marner)

Domi shifted to centre with Matthews out of the lineup, and quickly won an offensive-zone faceoff that led to a Leafs goal. Marner picked up an assist on the play by passing the puck back to Jake McCabe, and Tyler Bertuzzi created a screen in front. This line was Toronto’s best by a wide margin, and they generated plenty of rush chances. All three players were at their best.


William Nylander

Nylander’s line was quiet in the first, but he did set up Tavares for a decent chance after a nifty zone entry. He took a tripping penalty to start the second, and hit the post on a partial breakaway after coming out of the box. He then made a wicked pass to set up Joel Edmundson for a great chance, but Edmundson completely fanned on the shot. He didn’t have a point, but he deserved one.

The first pair (Morgan Rielly and Ilya Lyubushkin)

The Leafs dominated Rielly’s minutes in regulation, and he had a couple of excellent scoring chances on the power play. Unfortunately, both of those power play scoring chances reminded us that Rielly does not boast a great point shot. Lyubushkin has showcased a good 2023 Luke Schenn impression all series. He helps Rielly to play his game successfully, and he hasn’t been on for a five-on-five goal against all series.


Jake McCabe

McCabe opened the scoring five minutes in by firing a point shot past a screened Swayman. He was on for Frederic’s first-period goal, but it wasn’t his fault by any means. He quietly had himself a strong series.


Pontus Holmberg

Holmberg was quiet in the first, but started off the second with an excellent shift on the penalty kill. He then earned some new fans by battling with Marchand in the third:

The third pair (Joel Edmundson and Timothy Liljegren)

Edmundson was strong defensively, and he made a heads-up stretch pass to set up Nylander for a partial breakaway at the start of the second. Unfortunately, he also fanned on a shot after Nylander set him up with an excellent scoring chance. Liljegren’s minutes weren’t overly eventful. While you’d like to see him create more offensively, he logged plenty of minutes and held his own defensively.


Calle Järnkrok

Järnkrok won a key board battle on an early second-period penalty kill, and this quickly led to a partial breakaway for William Nylander. He was typical Järnkrok, a player who can’t create much through his puck carrying or playmaking, but plays hard and wins battles.


Simon Benoit

Benoit had a tough turnover 14 minutes in that immediately led to a goal against. You can argue that he was a victim of some bad luck, as there was no clear passing lane and the puck took an unfavourable bounce off Pat Maroon’s skate, but his role is to play safe and boring hockey. The Leafs also failed to generate much offensively during his minutes.


The fourth line (Connor Dewar, David Kämpf and Ryan Reaves)

They generated nothing offensively, and were caved in for a shift to start the second. It sure looked like they were about to be on for a goal against in the third, but Woll made a fantastic save to keep the game tied.


Nick Robertson

Robertson had a front-row seat for Trent Frederic’s first-period goal, but he didn’t have much time to react after a Benoit turnover. He didn’t play all that much, and wasn’t noticeable when he did play.

Game Score 

Screen Shot 2024 04 30 at 10.21.12 PM


Final grade: A

The Leafs looked like the more desperate team in the first, and held a 12-to-2 shot advantage as a result. That’s a pretty impressive road period, especially considering the absence of Auston Matthews. Three of Toronto’s four lines played boring, low-event hockey, but the new top line of Bertuzzi, Domi and Marner looked dominant.

Toronto killed off a penalty to start the second, and while they didn’t score, their power play started to show signs of life. The middle frame was ultimately fairly even, as Nylander hit the post early on, and Woll made a few key saves to keep the game tied.

The Leafs started the third on the power play and failed to capitalize. The Bruins had a couple of great chances shortly after, and the Leafs were finally getting outplayed a bit. While they didn’t rack up goal after goal against Swayman, they found a way to outplay the Bruins even without Matthews, and Woll showed off just how clutch he can be. This was an excellent road win.

What’s next for the Leafs?

Heading home for Game 6 on Thursday.

(Photo: Bob DeChiara / USA Today)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top