John Tavares and Mitch Marner Step Up When It Counts for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Apr 13, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner (16) scores a gaol
Apr 13, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner (16) scores a gaol / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs were facing elimination on Monday night, and not only was the team facing elimination, but they were facing the dismantling of the core that has worked together for the last six-eight years.

The Toronto Maple Leafs ended up winning 2-1 - a game much closer than the Bruins deserved - without Auston Matthews and without scoring a power-play goal.

If you told me the Leafs were going to have to win game five without Matthews and do it while running their power-play inefficiency to 1 for 17, I would have been skeptical. At the very least.

And yet, they found a way to get it done. (all stats

The Toronto Maple Leafs Live to Fight Another Day

The Leafs might not have scored a power-play goal, but they did stay out of the box, taking just one minor penalty all night (one which they killed off easily, allowing just one shot).

They also took the play to the Bruins and were by far the better team. The Leafs were on a mission in the first period and were extremely unlucky to find the score tied at the end of it.

In fact, no one really wants to talk about how unlucky the Leafs have been in this series so far - the special teams, the injuries, even the fact that they have over 30 more scoring chances than the Bruins do at 5v5 and yet each team has eight 5v5 goals.

Clearly special teams and goaltending are deciding this series, and maybe that's a good thing because the Leafs are due for a few power-play goals, and Joseph Woll looked better last night than any Leafs goalie has looked in years.

While Joseph Woll was the star of the game for that save in overtime and for posting a fake shutout (that's when the only goal you let in was off a stupid bounce and wasn't your fault), the true story of the game was how Mitch Marner elevated his game when it mattered.

With Marner on the ice last night, the Leafs had puck-possession for over 60% of the time. Shots were 11-6 and scoring chances were 13-5. All this added up to an insane 71% Expected Goals Rating. He set up the first Leafs goal, and he completely shut down the Bruins offense.

Domi was also just as good as Marner, but it's Tavares who deserves even more praise.

In the biggest game of his career - since a loss had the ability to tarnish everything he's ever done - Tavares led the Leafs forwards in 5v5 ice-time and put up numbers equal to what Marner did - he also created the winning goal with a sick drive to the net.

The Leafs should get a jolt when Auston Matthews returns for game six, and maybe even a bigger one if William Nylander shows up. Not that he was bad last night (great stats) but he's clearly not up to playoff speed.

The only real thing to clean up about last night's game was the fourth line which was basically the only time the Bruins ever had anything going on.


Bring on Game Six! Go Leafs!