Leafs need to pick up the pace: Keys to Game 2
Toronto dominated the play in its Game 1 loss to the Florida Panthers but the Maple Leafs need to build on that performance and release their offensive potential.
OMAR: First key, is that they have to get to Bobrovsky early. Bobrovsky was the difference-maker in game one, he just was. We just got goalied. And it's not to say that they sent a whole bunch of pucks on him that had no danger at all-- no, there are a couple really good chances that Bobrovsky stopped. He kept them in it. He kept the game tied even after the Leaf's bounced back and scored two goals of their own. After Florida made it 3-2, he kept them in it, as well. So they have to get to him early. They can't let him get into a groove, they can't let him get into a rhythm.
Matthews had the first shot of the game. It was a pretty dangerous shot. He was kind of breaking away a little bit and the shot went off the blocker. If that shot goes in, it's a completely different game. So I think they have to get to Bobrovsky very, very early.
Another thing, they really need to pick up the pace a little bit. And Sheldon Keefe started to do that a little bit. There were some moments where Matthews looked like he was going out like every other shift. Especially with Marner-- the Matthews and Marner and Nye's was going. Sometimes Nylander would be there or Nylander would be on the Tavares line. I think those quick shifts and those quick switches is going to be really key. And I wonder if Keefe entertained the idea of going back to 11-7, which I know is crazy for me because I was a big anti-11-7 person. But then they won game 6 using 11-7, and we saw that kind of increase in tempo.
And especially-- you see how Florida is using Tkachuk man. Like, Paul Maurice is sending Tkachuk out there as many times as possible. And if you want to try to get those interesting, weird little matchups where you have Matthews or Marner out against Florida's bottom six, maybe running 11-7 could be the way to go. That could be a way to get the power play going, especially if you're putting Gustafson back in. Because if the top unit is not getting it done, you need to have some boost for the second unit, and I'm not sure if you want to give Mark Giordano those extra minutes if you're going to rely on him on five on five in those certain situations.
So maybe you go 11-7, you take Ashton Reece out-- he wasn't too much of a factor again. Put Gustafson in as a seventh defenseman-- you have another person who can play on that rotation. And then you have an offensive weapon on the point, on the second power play unit. As well as more opportunities to get more and more of the elite talent into the lineup. Who knows? That could be something to go with.
And third, and this might be kind of boring. But like, honestly kind of chill a little bit. I mean, yeah, there are some moments where you can be critical of the game, definitely, and yeah, you can isolate some players and say, hey, you need to be better. But overall, again, at least were the better team. So there's not much that needs to change. Again, there are some things you can talk about, but if they play the same way they played in this game minus the mistakes, I think they'll be fine.
I mean Samsonov didn't stop everything, but he made some really good saves. Made a huge save in the second period. Again, you're getting some offensive contributions from Knies, Michael Bunting scores, which is great. That's something else that we needed as well. If you can get more of the supporting cast scoring, you can get the core four back in on it. It seems the physicality isn't leaving, as well. Again, a lot of leasing of open ice hits. I mean, I think there's a reason why a lot of us aren't concerned. I think it's because we watch this-- we saw this team get through Tampa, we are watching the Florida Panthers. We're watching how they're playing and we saw how they were on their heels a little bit. And again, Bobrovsky had to be really big for them.
If they play this way consistently and they don't let Florida take an extra step or get an extra edge on them, I think they'll be fine. So make your small little adjustments, but for the most part come out as the same team. Play the way that we know you can play. And again, if you are a Leaf's fan that is concerned or is disappointed that they didn't win game one, I mean, they didn't win game one last series and look how that turned out. So I think we've seen that winning game one isn't always the key predictor of winning a series. And I don't think this series is over by a long shot, for the least.