Maple Leafs report cards: Familiar issues lead to ugly Game 1 loss

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 5-1 loss in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Boston Bruins had several elements familiar to the team’s regular-season matchups.

Boston was able to win all four of those games by turning Toronto’s mistakes into counterattacks, winning the special-teams battle, and leaning on its goaltending advantage. The Bruins did all of those things on Saturday with the Maple Leafs aiding their efforts by taking far more penalties than usual.

William Nylander’s inability to dress hurt Toronto, but its Game 1 performance wasn’t one talented Swede away from being good enough to win.

Three stars

First star: Jake McCabe

It wasn’t a loud outing for McCabe, but he was Toronto’s most effective defenceman. McCabe ranked second on the team in ice time (20:33) and posted strong on-ice numbers with the Maple Leafs outshooting the Bruins 12-7 in his five-on-five minutes and earning a 63.87 percent expected goal rate.

McCabe didn’t produce many highlight-reel plays, but his inclination to put his body on the line stood out as he blocked six shots. No one else on the Maple Leafs blocked more than two. A workmanlike performance like McCabe’s in first-star consideration indicates how few of Toronto’s skaters stood out.

Second star: David Kämpf

Scoring Toronto’s only goal would’ve been enough to land Kämpf here, but he had an excellent night overall.

He led a fourth line that outshot Boston 4-1 with an expected goal rate of 81.94 percent and played on the first penalty-killing unit alongside Mitch Marner, which didn’t give up either Bruins power-play goal. The Bruins put just one unblocked attempt on Toronto’s goal in Kämpf’s 10:52 at five-on-five despite the fact he led Maple Leafs forwards in defensive-zone starts.

Third star: Mitch Marner

Although Marner didn’t show up on the scoresheet, his overall performance was commendable. He created several opportunities for his teammates, his line alongside John Tavares was Toronto’s most consistent unit, and he chipped in on special teams.

While Toronto’s penalty kill didn’t cover itself in glory, he wasn’t on the ice for either goal and managed multiple short-handed rushes of his own that killed some time as well as facilitating a quick clear in the second with a nifty play. On the power play, he set up Tavares in front for a brilliant chance in the second period, and did some fine defensive work on a short-handed Charlie Coyle counterattack.

Marner’s effort level was also strong throughout, as demonstrated by this successful effort to keep a puck in midway through the second.

Player reports


Connor Dewar

Dewar’s most memorable individual play was arguably snowing Jeremy Swayman, but he was an important part of a steady fourth-line effort and earned himself a primary assist.

Morgan Rielly

Rielly was not particularly noticeable in this one, which isn’t always a good sign for an offensive-minded defenceman. He had a few moments early in the third period, but he earned a competent grade thanks to his strong on-ice numbers.

In his team-leading 16:31 at five-on-five, Toronto outshot Boston 20-9 and he was only on for one goal that Ilya Samsonov allowed.

Nick Robertson

Robertson took on a characteristically low workload (10:38), but he’s one of the few Maple Leafs who wasn’t on the ice for a goal against — and got one of Toronto’s best chances.

In a game full of conspicuous mistakes by the Maple Leafs, Robertson was steady. His individual expected goal total (0.51) ranked third on Toronto.

Ilya Lyubushkin

Lyubushkin’s ice time (14:48) suggested that Sheldon Keefe saw him as the team’s sixth defenceman, but he was better than that in this one. He had fewer wobbly moments than many of his fellow blueliners and didn’t compromise his integrity to lay big hits.


John Tavares 

Tavares had several chances on the doorstep, but couldn’t convert. He ended the game with 1.44 expected goals despite his failure to light the lamp, and his line did a fine job of controlling the play at five-on-five.

The Maple Leafs needed a goal from one of his prime chances, though.


Auston Matthews

Matthews created some opportunities, including a near goal off the post …

… but he didn’t produce anything tangible or drive play in a notable way. Matthews and his linemates were the only three Maple Leafs forwards to post an expected goal rate below 50 percent at five-on-five.

Calle Järnkrok

Järnkrok didn’t do much in this one outside of a single promising shot on a rush where a pass to Robertson might’ve been the best play. That said, it’s tough to grade him too harshly coming off a lengthy absence and playing a significant role.


Ilya Samsonov

None of the goals Samsonov allowed were truly unforgivable, but when he could bail out his teammates he rarely did so. The posts did more to keep the Maple Leafs in the game early than Samsonov, apart from one stout defence of the goal line.

Samsonov does not deserve to be blamed for Toronto’s loss, but he did nothing to change the perception that Boston has a meaningful goaltending advantage in this series.

Ryan Reaves

Reaves had respectable on-ice numbers and a second assist, but he played just 7:31 and was the primary offender on Boston’s first goal.

While it’s understandable that the veteran bruiser wanted to throw his body around in Game 1, this was a poor read that allowed Boston to grab an early lead.

Pontus Holmberg

Asking Holmberg to perform as a third-line centre in the playoffs was a bit of a stretch when he had Nylander at his flank. Without the star, it was unfair to expect him to drive a unit that could match its Bruins counterpart.

Holmberg’s mark comes up a little bit due to that degree of difficulty, but his line spent plenty of time in its own end, and he was one of just two Maple Leafs on the ice for three total goals.

Simon Benoit

Benoit nearly scored a goal in the third period, but he looked shaky throughout. While he threw eight hits, he also took a penalty and made a case for TJ Brodie to draw in for Game 2.


Matthew Knies

Knies played just 10:31, but he was on the ice for three goals against. He was loose with the puck on Saturday, and his best highlight was the result of his own turnover.

Tyler Bertuzzi/Max Domi

This duo didn’t do enough to support Matthews and got mixed up in extracurriculars in a way that didn’t help the team. Their games were loud, but their passing wasn’t as crisp as usual, and Domi took two penalties.

Joel Edmundson/Timothy Liljegren

Toronto’s third pair was its worst as they struggled to move the puck, and Edmundson got out of position a number of times with uncharacteristic and ineffective ambition.

Liljegren had the lowest expected goal rate of any Maple Leaf at five-on-five (32.16 percent) and no one else was below 40. The Maple Leafs outshot Boston in every skater’s five-on-five minutes except Liljegren.

Game Score 

Final grade: C-

Toronto carried the play for much of the game and could tell itself that a few more bounces could’ve yielded a better result. Even though the team went into Boston and outshot the Bruins 36-24 there isn’t a moral victory to be claimed here.

The Maple Leafs made an exaggerated effort to establish their physicality, which resulted in a sloppy, undisciplined effort. Not only did Toronto’s march to the sin bin result in two Bruins goals, but it also took 9:20 off the clock in a game it was chasing from early on.

This effort was not a demonstration that Toronto cannot beat Boston, but the team will have to clean up its act if it’s going to finally win a postseason series against the Bruins.

A mark in the Ds would be in consideration, but the absence of Nylander — and to a lesser extent Bobby McMann — is a mitigating factor considering how central the winger is to Toronto’s offence, and Keefe’s plan to spread out his offensive weapons.

What’s next for the Leafs?

The series remains in Boston for Game 2 on Monday at 7 p.m.

(Top photo: Bob DeChiara / USA Today)

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