Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

Leafs 3, Bruins 1: Talk about a forced Game 7

Sara Civian
April 23, 2018 - 10:20 pm

It’s usually just an expression, but the Leafs and Frederik Andersen's 32 saves actually forced a Game 7. The Bruins forced almost everything else in Monday’s 3-1 loss.

The Bruins out-shot the Leafs 33-30 with a 63-37 percent faceoff advantage. Rick Nash had some great looks denied. Jake DeBrusk tried his hardest. The Leafs still prevailed.

Sound familiar?

Only this time, bad luck wasn’t to blame. There was the one questionable tripping call on Charlie McAvoy early in the third, and ok, the lack of interference called on Tomas Plekanec’s empty-netter was egregious. Other than that, the Bruins had goalie interference go their way, and they had that early momentum.

Most of Andersen’s saves weren’t lucky, either:

The B’s escaped the first with a 17-10 shot advantage and the first line leading the way. Patrice Bergeron, who hasn’t quite been himself since returning from his “upper-body injury,” had four shots and Brad Marchand had three. That, and a strong penalty kill from Zdeno Chara and Sean Kuraly had things looking up as the first expired.

DeBrusk struck first, fresh off a faceoff 1:02 into the second:

A goal for the workhorse was fair in a series that’s often felt dictated by luck. 35 seconds later, William Nylander responded with a very fair goal of his own:

Game 6 was finally the purest form of skill vs. skill that’s been promised since this matchup was announced.

Mitch Marner’s game-winner in the second exposed the Bruins’ defense for how weak it has been these past two games:

What was worse? Marchand’s giveaway, or Torey Krug assuming he had it and cheating the breakaway. Either way, that disconnect was palpable.

So was one of the worse games McAvoy has played in recent memory. It’s clear at this point he’s either still recovering from his MCL sprain or it’s turned into something worse. He led the Bruins with 24:35 TOI and didn’t have much to show for it -- one shot on goal, three hits, one block and another few lost edges.

Bergeron going 79% from the faceoff dot couldn't have fixed that. Nor could any of Nash’s cursed shots swatted out of the net, or Ryan Donato-or-Tommy Wingels-or any third-liner Cassidy might've inserted.

The third period of Game 6 was the best hockey the Leafs have played this series. They held these typical late-game explosion Bruins to seven shots on goal -- long enough for the questionable Plekanec empty netter:

It was fitting that Plekanec, who proved a solution to the Bergeron line, scored that. I guess the match up game coach Mike Babcock hasn’t backed down on actually worked. Now, the Bruins will have to try to find a solution to his team by Wednesday.