Aside from the New York Islanders, no team looked less ready to be in the post-season than the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite an early goal, their performance in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Boston Bruins was poor at best. That said, the Islanders came back and won their Game 2 on the road, so perhaps some of that magic is in the card for the Leafs in Game 2 at TD Garden.
Things started well enough on Wednesday night. In fact, you couldn't have written a better script to open up a series. Patrice Bergeron took a tripping penalty at 1:38, and 16 seconds later the Leafs found the back of the net. Cody Franson had a couple of decent chances, then drew Zdeno Chara away from James Van Riemsdyk, who got the puck with a lot of net to put an easy tap-in home to make it 1-0 Leafs. Toronto had the start they wanted.
As the Leafs often do, however, they fell way behind in the possession game and on the shot board. Boston outshot them 15-7 in the first period and 40-20 overall. Unlike some past games where James Reimer was able to hold the fort, the Bruins found a way to beat Reimer and take over the game.
Wade Redden - a trade deadline acquisition from St. Louis -- was able to open the scoring for the Bruins. Reimer got a decent chunk of Redden's slap shot from the half-boards, but not nearly enough as it trickled in to tie the game. A few minutes later, an absolute killer power play goal from Nathan Horton gave the Bruins the lead with 12 seconds to go in the first period. The Bruins got two more in the second and never looked back, taking Game 1 4-1.
The two teams meet again in Boston tonight. The team that wins the first two games of any series is likely to win 86 percent of the time in the NHL. The Bruins don't necessarily need any more statistics on their side, however.
1. Will someone try to spark the Leafs the way Kyle Okposo did for the Islanders?
The Leafs are certainly a pugnacious bunch as it is, but Okposo wasn't known as a fighter at all before dropping the gloves with Matt Niskanen on Friday. The situations are the same, but the teams aren't. But will someone on the Leafs see his team fall behind again and try to start throwing punches to get them going?
2. Can Jake Gardiner or Ryan O'Byrne make a difference on defense?
Mike Kostka will be out for Game 2 (and probably longer) with a broken finger. That means that either Jake Gardiner or Ryan O'Byrne will enter the Toronto lineup. O'Byrne is more stay-at-home, while Gardiner can provide some offense from the blueline. Can the switch help the Leafs stabilize, or perhaps find a little bit more of their scoring touch in Game 2?
3. Will the Bruins miss Andrew Ference?
The teenager Dougie Hamilton will play his first post-season game in place of the suspended Ference, while Adam McQuaid looks to be paired with Zdeno Chara. While Chara is incredible against the Leafs top forwards (especially Phil Kessel), will these adjustments give Toronto some extra room to work offensively, and perhaps get the goals they need to keep up with the Bruins in this one?