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First Round

Maple Leafs letdown on special teams contributed to playoff elimination

Lack of depth scoring, shaky play from Andersen in Game 7 among reasons for series loss to Bruins

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

The Toronto Maple Leafs' season ended with a 5-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round at TD Garden on Tuesday. It was the second consecutive season the Maple Leafs lost to the Bruins in Game 7 of the first round and the third time since 2013.

The loss marked the third season in a row the Maple Leafs failed to get beyond the first round, including a six-game loss to the Washington Capitals in 2017.

"We've got to push through this because you can't be talking after a playoff series that you're going home," coach Mike Babcock said. "That's the bottom line. We've improved our team drastically, you've witnessed it. This series we were a way better team than we were a year ago, but we're at the same point with the same result here today, and so that part is disappointing."

Here are 5 reasons the Maple Leafs were eliminated:


[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]


1. Power play

The Maple Leafs had faith all season in their power play. When there was talk in the middle of the season that they needed more size and physicality, Babcock said, "Our toughness is our power play." In other words, if teams wanted to take penalties, the Maple Leafs would make them pay on the scoresheet. But that did not happen against the Bruins.

Toronto was eighth in the NHL on the power play (21.8 percent) during the regular season but scored three times on 16 chances (18.8 percent) in the playoffs. The Maple Leafs were 0-for-2 with four shots on goal in Game 7. They were 0-for-3 in Game 6, including two chances in the first period.

Video: Bruins outlast Leafs in seven games to advance


2. Penalty killing

The other side of the special-teams equation didn't work out well for the Maple Leafs, either. The Bruins scored seven power-play goals on 16 opportunities.

Toronto led 1-0 in the first period of Game 6 but allowed Boston to take a 2-1 lead on power-play goals by Brad Marchand and Torey Krug. Marchand's goal, which tied the game 1-1 at 11:23 of the first, marked the last time the Maple Leafs led in the series.


3. Goaltending

Through the first six games, Frederik Andersen had a .925 save percentage. But for the second season in a row, he struggled in Game 7.

Andersen allowed three goals on 30 shots, including the first goal of the game to Joakim Nordstrom at 14:29 of the first period from a bad angle that squeezed between his glove-hand and body. With the Maple Leafs trailing 2-1 in the third period, forward Sean Kuraly beat Andersen with an unscreened wrist shot from the top of the left circle to restore Boston's two goal lead.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was steady in Game 7, making 32 saves and finishing the series with a .928 save percentage.

Andersen is 0-4 with an .856 save percentage in NHL Game 7s. He allowed six goals on 35 shots in a loss to the Bruins in Game 7 of the first round last season.

Video: Despite Game 7 loss, future remains bright in Toronto


4. Lack of offense from Tavares, Marner

Toronto's line of center John Tavares, left wing Zach Hyman and right wing Mitchell Marner did a solid job in its matchup against the Bruins' top line of center Patrice Bergeron, left wing Marchand and right wing David Pastrnak. In Toronto's wins in Games 1, 3 and 5, Boston's top line was held to three points (one goal, two assists), and in Game 7 the line's only point was Bergeron's empty-net goal.

But they didn't come through in the offensive end. Tavares, who was third in the NHL during the regular season with 47 goals, scored one non-empty net goal, at 3:54 of the second period in Game 7 to cut Boston's lead to 2-1. Marner, who led Toronto with 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) in the regular season, scored two goals in Game 1 but had two assists the rest of the series and one shot on goal in Games 4-6.


5. Depth scoring

Auston Matthews led Toronto with five goals, but of the other players only Marner scored more than one non-empty goal for the Maple Leafs. Depth was supposed to be an advantage, but it did not come through.

Nazem Kadri's suspension for the duration of the series after Game 2 moved William Nylander to third-line center alongside left wing Patrick Marleau and right wing Connor Brown. Neither Brown nor Marleau scored in the series, while Nylander's one goal came in Game 1 while playing on Kadri's right.

Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen and Morgan Rielly, each of whom scored 20 regular-season goals, were held to one goal each.


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