Rick Zamperin: Earth to Leafs, push the panic button now!
Forget about just pushing the panic button.
The Toronto Maple Leafs should slam that button with all their might following a disastrous start to their NHL playoff series against the Boston Bruins. That’s if they can muster any might. They’ve hardly shown a pulse in their two lopsided loses against Boston, being outscored 5-1 and 7-3.
READ MORE: Bruins crush Leafs 7-3 in game 2 of playoffs
Entering their opening round series, there wasn’t a vast difference between the Atlantic Division foes. Both teams had great goalies, top flight scorers and very good power-play and penalty killing units.
So where has it all gone wrong for Toronto? Look no further than their go-to guys.
Boston’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak has thoroughly destroyed the Leafs, compiling 20 points in just two games. Toronto’s No. 1 line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman has one point, Hyman’s game-tying goal in the first period of Game One.
Boston’s Tuukka Rask has made save after save in key moments of both games, while Toronto’s Frederik Anderson got the hook in the first period of Game Two when it was clear that he wasn’t playing anywhere near the elevated level that is required in the playoffs.
Lady luck has also not been in Toronto’s corner either. Replays showed that Marchand’s series opening goal was offside, but it was not challenged by Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. Trailing 1-0 Saturday night, Kasperi Kapanen had a chance to tie the game on a breakaway but hit the post. Moments later, Boston’s Jake DeBrusk made it 2-0. Minutes after that goal, Kevan Miller shot the puck from the corner and Anderson batted it with his stick, only to hit defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and helplessly watch the puck sail past him and into the net.
Toronto’s special teams have been anything but special. The Bruins are 5-for-10 on the power-play. 5-for-10! The Leafs have converted just one of their seven opportunities on the PP.
So how does Toronto get back into this series? More importantly, can they?
First off, Toronto’s compete level was shockingly abysmal at the start of Thursday’s series opener. The game was there for the taking in the early going of the second period, but the Leafs could not capitalize on their chances. The wheels came off in the first period of Game Two and it was game over by the first intermission. Monday night, the series shifts to Air Canada Centre. Toronto had one of the best home records in the league this season and if being down 2-0 and playing in front of their fans doesn’t get them going, Toronto might as well start booking their tee times now.
Not having shutdown centre Nazem Kadri for Games 2, 3 and 4 following his suspension for trying to take Tommy Wingels’ head off on Thursday doesn’t help, and neither did seeing Leo Komorov limp to the dressing room on Saturday. Toronto has some decent depth in players like Andreas Johnsson, Josh Leivo and tough guy Matt Martin, and even though they aren’t game changers, lesser likes have a knack for scoring a big goal here and there in the post-season. Toronto needs someone to step up.
I know that Babcock, Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Lou Lamouriello won’t be telling their team to push the panic button. They’ll admit to a sense of urgency or a need to elevate their game. Whatever you want to call it, it’s go time for the Maple Leafs. Otherwise, it will soon be time for them to go.
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