Toronto Maple Leafs: What Went Wrong In Game 6

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 02: Garret Sparks #40 of the Toronto Maple Leafs comes out of the dressing room to play the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scotiabank Arena on April 2, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 02: Garret Sparks #40 of the Toronto Maple Leafs comes out of the dressing room to play the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scotiabank Arena on April 2, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs missed their opportunity to win the first round series with the Boston Bruins Sunday, losing their matinee matchup 4-2.

The performance by the Toronto Maple Leafs was both disappointing – outshot 41-24 on home ice – and downright confusing. How could this be the same team that won the chess match that was Game 5? Or blew out Boston in Game 1?

Before jumping to any dramatic conclusions regarding what this game means for Game Seven – which will be the third Game 7 between these two teams in the first round to be played at TD Garden since 2013 – keep in mind that despite what you might’ve seen on Sunday afternoon, that is the same team that won Games 1, 3, and 5. The loss in Game 6 can actually be traced back to a few key mistakes and shortcomings.

If they can solve these problems, there is no reason this team cannot win Game 7.

The First Line

If the Toronto Maple Leafs learned one lesson from last year’s series against Boston, it is that they should never underestimate the Bruins’ top line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak. The three combined for 9 goals and 21 assists over seven games last series. Accordingly, the Leafs learned the hard way that their number one priority has to be shutting down that line.

With the acquisition of John Tavares, the Toronto Maple Leafs created one of the league’s most dangerous offensive pairings in Tavares and Marner. The also became one of the league’s most stacked teams in terms of depth at centre.

Despite the criticism Tavares has been receiving this series for his lack of offensive production, it is important to note that he has been playing a primarily defensive role this series, facing off against Patrice Bergeron night after night and tasked with the prevention of the same type of explosive offense that sunk the Leafs last year – and he’s been succeeding.

The Bruins top line hasn’t been quiet, but they’ve been less devastating than they were last spring. In the Leafs’ three wins this series, Boston’s top three have combined for three points: exactly one each.

Last night, however, Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak combined for six points, led by Brad Marchand’s two goals. The biggest difference between the Leafs’ game on Sunday and their game on Friday is illustrated right there in that stat: they weren’t able to contain the first line.

The Power Play

The Leafs have demonstrated an ability to contain Boston’s top line throughout this series. It is safe to say the defensive breakdown was the result of a desperate Boston effort and a lackluster Leafs one. The Leafs can and should shut down the first line one more time to pull out a Game 7 win.

What was more concerning about Game 6 was the inability of the power play – and to a lesser extent, the penalty kill – to get the job done.

The Leafs had three power plays in Game 6 and delivered on none of them. While the Bruins’ power play has been a weapon throughout the series, and indeed, went 2/2 in Sunday’s game, the Leafs power play has failed to be as dangerous as the talent on it would suggest it should be.

The Leafs power play has gone 3 for 14 throughout the series, in sharp contrast to the 7 times Boston has capitalized on the man advantage over 16 attempts.

These numbers are troubling for both of the Toronto Maple Leafs special teams, but the power play in particular, and only get worse when further scrutiny reveals that two of the three power play goals have been scored by Auston Matthews.

This means that only one goal has been scored on the power play by the rest of the two unit team. Matthews presence has been key to the success of the team this series, however, playoff success cannot be left to one player. If the Leafs hope to win Game 7, something has to give on the power play, and the 9 other players are going to have to show up in a big way when opportunities arise.

The Empty Net

This last observation is less of a genuine concern and more of a specific complaint, but if you want one more specific example of something that went wrong in Game 6, it was the pulling of Frederik Andersen.

With a little under three minutes remaining, Andersen was, and an extra attacker was sent out in the hopes of retrieving the game from a 2-1 deficit. In under a minute, Brad Marchand drove home an empty net goal.

Why was this play so quick to fail? Easy. The Leafs didn’t have possession. This is not a criticism of pulling the goalie in general, nor of the time at which it was done. It wasn’t too early, it was just a stupid play.

Johnsson was bobbling the puck, possession was never solid, and Andersen was still called out. If a little more patience had been practiced by Babcock and the Leafs could have gotten set up, there may have been a different result to end this game. But then again, maybe not. (Stats from and

A lot about this game was disappointing, and it is easy to get caught up in the emotion; or lack thereof – Maple Leaf Square was packed but dismal for this matchup; and start to doubt the ability of this team to change the pattern of Game 7’s that has been established in recent years.

But Frederik Andersen had another incredible performance. Auston Matthews is continuing to produce. The fans continue to turn out. And the Leafs are still in this series.

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If they can solve a few easily targetable issues, they’ve got a real shot at bringing another round of playoff hockey to the city of Toronto.

Puck drops at 7:00 PM Tuesday for Game 7. Don’t miss it!