Maple Leafs report cards: Another humbling and self-inflicted loss to the Bruins


The Maple Leafs’ previous game against the Boston Bruins was disappointing because it was a playoff-style matchup in which the Leafs lost in the final minute on a Matt Grzelcyk point shot. The game against the Bruins on Wednesday, a 5-2 loss, was disappointing because it was a complete mess.

The Leafs made it easy for the Bruins, and gave them gifts from poorly timed pinches, bad recoveries and a cornucopia of turnovers.

This was supposed to carry the team into the All-Star break? This was supposed to be a point of evaluation for the squad? And yes, Auston Matthews wasn’t playing, but the Leafs have lost games like this with him in the lineup.

There needs to be a transition in how the front office evaluates things. Is this another blip or do the Leafs need to add to the roster in certain areas? Either way, it’s safe to say that this team isn’t catching Boston in the standings.


Player reports

A-

William Nylander 

Nylander was the best forward on the ice by far for the Leafs. He was flying, cutting through the middle and skating through the Bruins regardless of the formation or their setup of players. If there was a loose puck or if it was on his stick, Nylander was getting through and making plays for himself and his linemates. Even in the defensive zone, Nylander was getting in passing lanes and quickly transitioning the puck in the offensive zone.

B

Alex Kerfoot 

Kerfoot was doing a good job of keeping up with Nylander and acting as an outlet for him in transition. However, when the Leafs were down, it would’ve been nice to see some of those shots find the back of the net. Kerfoot gets way too many good looks from skilled teammates to not convert on them. He finished the night with four shots on goal and each of them was a serious chance.

Mark Giordano 

The veteran was letting shots fly all night, leading the team with five. He also bailed out Justin Holl by blocking a scoring chance right in front of Ilya Samsonov after another turnover.

Wayne Simmonds

The fourth line was spending significant minutes in the offensive zone and a lot of it came from Simmonds’ strong forechecking. He was catching Bruins players along the boards to keep the puck down low and stealing pucks for offensive opportunities.

The Carlo goal was a bit of a blunder from Samsonov but it came off an extended shift that left the Leafs gassed. Simmonds and Pontus Holmberg had a chance to change when Boston was in their end. Additionally, when the team needed a boost after the A.J. Greer goal, Simmonds dropped the gloves with Greer and in clear victory, he sparked the arena a bit.

B-

Mitch Marner 

On his goal, the right side of the ice was wide open and Marner quickly recognized what he and Samsonov could create. He was taking a number of shots in the first period and a lot of them were getting blocked and straight-up stopped, so it was good to see that one beat Linus Ullmark to tie the game.

Until the goal, however, Marner looked slow and a bit disengaged. He wasn’t the only one at fault for Brandon Carlo’s game-tying goal, but he did everything but get the puck back against the boards on that short-handed opportunity.

C+

Calle Jarnkrok

On his goal, Jarnkrok did a good job following the puck, and it gave him an empty net to shoot at. Connor Clifton’s well-intentioned mistake became Jarnkrok’s 12th goal of the season, bringing the Leafs within one with a little over 12 minutes to go. Too bad it couldn’t last.

Pierre Engvall

As the weeks go by, I’m noticing Engvall work harder for the puck and heading to the front of the net more often, instead of settling for stopping up by the hash marks. His drive in the first period forced Ullmark to get low on the ice and make a great pad save.

David Kampf 

The saucer pass to Rasmus Sandin over the defending Boston stick is one of those random skill plays from Kampf that surprise you. The breakdown didn’t start with him, but I would’ve liked a bit more on the attempt to stop Greer. I get that Kampf didn’t want to take a penalty, but instead, Greer was able to take and score on his shot.

Joey Anderson

This was a quieter night for Anderson, with the same hustle and effort. He made a great play to Sandin in the first period for one of the team’s opening scoring chances.

Rasmus Sandin

The offensive plays were there, especially in the first period with Sandin joining the rush and pushing the pressure. I was also a fan of his wall-like defending, not letting puck-carriers through. He has some responsibility on the second Pavel Zacha goal, as he had a chance to put the puck in a safer area but turned it over to David Pastrnak along the boards.

TJ Brodie 

Brodie wasn’t as steady as we’re used to. One of his pinches led to an odd-man rush in the third period and he was shaken up by Zacha before his first goal while defending the point.

Ilya Samsonov

We saw two versions of Samsonov: “Brick wall” Samsonov and “I’m being let down” Samsonov. The first period was one of his better 20-minute runs as a Leafs goaltender all season. His positioning, athleticism and rebound control was sound, as he robbed Taylor Hall point blank and made big stops on Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Clifton.

Samsonov even added to his point total with the sole assist on the Marner goal, which was very similar to his apple against the New York Islanders. Unfortunately, Samsonov is only human, and there are only so many scoring chances a goalie can stop. You can hold the team accountable on the Derek Forbort and Greer goals. On the Carlo goal, we started to see some of that solid positioning fail, while the first Zacha goal was gutting. The team had just brought itself within one goal and, 30 seconds later, they were right back where they started.

Michael Bunting 

Remember when Nazem Kadri stopped getting calls? It’s safe to say Bunting is knee-deep in that box. It’s loud and clear from officiating that he has a reputation and it’s not going to get him anything. Unfortunately for Bunting, it’s something he has to deal with and instead of going off about it — whether justified or not — he needs to focus on the game.

John Tavares 

When the Leafs’ defensive coverage was getting more and more porous, Tavares made a good play on the backcheck to take away a potential tap-in goal.

Pontus Holmberg

He did nice work attacking puck-carriers on zone entries and he got some looks on Ullmark as a result of the line’s forechecking late in the first.

Justin Holl

Just watching. Too many turnovers. Can’t corral a puck.

C-

Morgan Rielly 

One of the bigger saves of the night from Samsonov, unfortunately, came off a Rielly error. You have to respect the awareness from Pastrnak, but the puck was flicked at Rielly and he couldn’t do anything about it. Additionally, I don’t like the lack of a shoulder check ahead of the Forbort goal. Marner, Nylander and Holmberg were on the right side of the ice trying — emphasis on trying — to win the puck back. Rielly was there in support for a breakout but had his eyes on the puck the entire time when he could have taken a look up to notice Forbort coming down.

Timothy Liljegren

Call it karma and/or the hockey gods watching, but the Liljegren-Sandin pair was being praised and they went on to have arguably their worst night together.  Their turnovers and poorly timed pinches started to pile up as the game continued. Liljegren was caught deep and couldn’t recover ahead of the Greer goal, and he also couldn’t contain Zacha ahead of his second goal of the night. Uncharacteristic, yes, but not a good look.

MIA 

Zach Aston-Reese

He had one shot on goal with 8:20 on the clock. Aston-Reese needs to find something to add to that fourth line consistently.


Game Score 


Final grade: C-

You know what’s concerning yet funny at the same time? There was a moment in the first period when I noticed when things started to change, and it’s so simple but it’s something we talk about time and time again with the Leafs. The Bruins started to hit, and the Leafs started to get sloppy with the puck. Whether it’s correlational or causational is up for debate. Don’t get me wrong, they pushed back a little and that’s why the fourth line, especially Simmonds, was an important part of the opening frame. Nevertheless, the Leafs got worse as the game went on while the Bruins got better.

Nylander was the only forward among the top six who looked as if they were actively trying to create and drive play every shift. Marner had some flashes and Tavares had even fewer.

That’s a problem.

The top pair, Rielly and Brodie, weren’t the tightest while Giordano had to put on his hero cape for Holl on several occasions. Additionally, and I know it was only one game, the high-flying fun pair didn’t do too well against top competition in the NHL.

That’s a problem.

The lead-up to the March 3 trade deadline will be very interesting.


What’s next for the Leafs?

The Leafs are starting their All-Star break and will be back Feb. 10 to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road at 7 p.m. The stretch to the playoffs begins then.

(Photo: John E. Sokolowski / USA Today)





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