William Nylander Is Back + Ilya Samsonov to Start in Pivotal Game 4 vs. Bruins

The Leafs hope the possible return of William Nylander can ignite their struggling power play. More timely saves are also required from goaltender Ilya Samsonov.
Toronto Maple Leafs v Florida Panthers
Toronto Maple Leafs v Florida Panthers / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to put an end to some concerning tendencies when they face the Boston Bruins in a pivotal Game 4 at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.

The return of star winger William Nylander should provide an emotional boost, but he alone can not fix all that ails the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Over the first three games of the series against the Bruins, some familiar playoff issues have returned to haunt the Leafs.

Outstanding play from the opposition's goaltender and getting outplayed on special teams are two obstacles that the Leafs must overcome to tie the series before it heads back to Boston.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Look to Reverse Negative Trends in Pivotal Game 4 vs. Bruins

Boston goaltender Jeremy Swayman has backstopped the Bruins to victories in the series opener and Game 3, continuing his mastery over the Leafs.

On the flip side, Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov let in a deflating, short-side shot by Trent Frederick during Game 3 that allowed the Bruins to tie the game at 1. The Leafs will go back to him tonight.

The untimely, questionable goals have been a common element to the Leafs woes in their recent postseason history. Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell did the same during their tenures.

Samsonov made more key saves than Linus Ullmark in the Leafs Game 2 victory, but the soft goal to Frederick zapped the energy from Scotiabank Arena and ignited the Bruins.

Swayman has outplayed Samsonov in both games that he played, likely ending the Bruins goaltending rotation. The weak goals from the Leafs goaltenders have to be eliminated.

Leafs Must Win the Special Teams Battle

It's rather obvious that the Leafs need to improve their special teams. Their level of ineptitude is surprising, especially on the power play.

A power-play goal at any point during Game 3 would have significantly increased the Leafs chances of winning. Instead, they went scoreless in five man-advantage opportunities, continuing a month-long collapse.

For a team with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, and Nylander, it's unacceptable.

That is too long and the Leafs players and coaches must adapt and make adjustments. The leash should be short and personnel changes need to be made should the struggles continue.

The horrendous Leafs power play is matched by its dreadful penalty-killing. Both units rank third-last among the sixteen playoff teams. Their deficiencies are well below respectable levels. The power play is at 9.1% and the penalty-killing is 50%.

It defies logic that both units could be that bad simultaneously.

Time is Running Short For the Leafs to Fix Their Issues

This is not an elimination game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it is incumbent that they do everything necessary to win. A loss here and the probability of winning the series, with two of the final three games in Boston, is minuscule.

Extra shifts of the stars playing with each other or changing personnel on special teams, all options must be entertained.

The Leafs also must be more disciplined. Max Domi and others, despite good intentions, can't get caught up in sideshow antics.


The time is now for the Toronto Maple Leafs to be on the right side of important, winning plays, or reflecting on another lost postseason opportunity will begin to take shape.